Two business owners say they are now counting millions of dollars in losses after a fire, suspected to have been started by a child playing with matches, gutted a stall and a bond in the Parika Market Centre yesterday morning.
The fire, which started around 8.30 am, is believed to have started in the concrete bond owned by Sharmila Shaw, owner of Sharmila and Son’s Variety Store, and then spread to the nearby confectionary/snackette operated by Egerton Maxwell and his wife.
Sunday Stabroek was informed that a preliminary investigation revealed that the fire began after Maxwell’s grandson, who was allegedly playing with matches, lit a stick and threw it through a crease into Shaw’s bond.
However, the Guyana Fire Service investigation is ongoing to determine the cause.
The security guard on duty, Leroy Edwards, told this newspaper that he was making routine checks when he noticed smoke coming from Shaw’s bond.
As a result, he said he alerted his supervisor, who in turn alerted the Guyana Fire Service.
When this newspaper visited the scene, Shaw was still in shock and had not yet visited the burnt bond.
She said she was driving to work when her brother called her and told her someone broke into the bond. “He couldn’t break the news to me like that so he tell me was a break and enter. It was until I reach here then I get to know was a fire,” Shaw said.
She explained that her niece was already at the market and had just open the stall, situated at the road front, when she was alerted by Edwards.
He told me, ‘Mantha, Mantha, run and come with the key, the lil boy set fire at the back deh,” the niece related.
Shaw said the bond stored a lot of items, including bicycles, electronics, clothing and footwear. “It’s a lot of losses because everything we does keep at the back there and if we run out of something or a customer come and ask for an item and we don’t have it at the front here, we does have to go back there for it,” she explained.
Meanwhile, the owner of the other stall that was destroyed, Maxwell, said the stall was initially built to sell confectionaries. However, since they were removed from the roadside several years ago, his wife had started preparing and selling food, such as egg balls, channa and puris.
Apart from this, he said the stall was also used as a stocking area. “After realising the fact that we couldn’t a sell these things here—because people not walking through the market here, we don’t have a crowd, the crowd capacity is on the road—we normally transfer our goods that we purchase on the road so we use this stall here as a stocking area,” Maxwell related.
He said he was at the road front when his wife called him and informed him of the fire.
At the time, he added, his grandson was in front of their now destroyed stall playing. “Normally, my grandson comes to me every morning and he would come and play with me but he would go and pick up them worms and ants and them kind of things,” Maxwell said.
He denied claims that the fire was started by his grandson, who he said noticed sparking in the ceiling of Shaw’s bond. (Sharda Bacchus)