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Jul 7, 2014

Overnight fire in San Pedro leaves sixteen families homeless

Sixteen families are tonight without roofs over their heads following a massive inferno which eviscerated eight buildings in San Pedro Town.  While relief has been forthcoming, the families, a large number of which include children under the age of seventeen, have lost everything and starting over will be a challenge.  This morning, News Five’s Duane Moody visited the island where the devastated community is picking up the pieces.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Three properties on Conch Shell Street in the Boca Del Rio Area of San Pedro Town went up in flames on Sunday night. Around eight-thirty p.m., a massive blaze destroyed eight houses, displacing sixteen families. This morning, men, women and children stood across from the scene where there was still smoke and fire on site. The Hernandez family arguably suffered the most in losses. Their property contained five structures; all of which were gutted by flames. Used as apartment complexes, the buildings were home for approximately eight families.

 

Joe Hernandez

Joe Hernandez, Fire Victim

“As I turn on the washing machine my cousin told me where’s your mother. I said inside and he said, auntie, auntie….fire next door. When I look over there, the windows like that over there, it was blazing up. All I did was come and shout to the neighbors, fire, fire. Everyone just run away. We were the only ones trying to out it.”

 

Edita Hernandez, Fire Victim

“I call the police right away and I shout for everyone, come out, come out because fire, fire. I call them, take out the kids, try to see what we can do, try to run. And when all of us run out, I realize I had some few stuff weh I run in, but the fire was already there.”

 

Reporter

“Did you manage to salvage anything in the fire?”

 

Edita Hernandez

“One suitcase for my baby, one suitcase of clothes.”

 

The blaze started on the upper flat of a two-storey structure that once stood at the center of the rubble. The concrete and wooden building was rented by Lisber Bardalez, who lived in the upper flat with her husband, children and mom. She says it was a neighbor who alerted them about the fire to the rear of the house.

 

Lisber Bardalez

Lisber Bardalez, Fire Victim

“We were drinking coffee and a girl pass and she say that how the house as burning at the back and she told my mom to come out and my mom told her that she can’t come out because she can’t walk. And then I went to check the rooms and when I opened my son room, I saw the fire coming from the window. After that I ran to the next room and I wake up my husband—he was sleeping—and I said Rene, get up, get up. And then we lost the baby inside because we have a three year old baby. After that, I was trying to throw away the baby from the verandah and all the people that were downstairs was outside in the street.”

 

Due to the proximity of the structures, the fire easily spread to other houses. Joe Hernandez and a couple other residents, in an effort to save their home, started dousing the bulding with water, but it was futile.

 

Joe Hernandez

“We try to help out it and thing; spray water. But then it was too much pressure, but he still stay with the hose and thing and try out it, but he couldn’t anymore and so he come down and I went in my house again and through my window I try spray again…but we can’t help it no more.”

 

Edita Hernandez

Edita Hernandez

“About three-thirty, four o’clock soh, we see the big blaze again. And when we see the big blaze, my son and my brother in law went again and we start to borrow hose and try out the fire again or otherwise the fire woulda mi pass again to the neighbors because a roof was still up there.”

 

Fire officials responded to the scene soon after the blaze engulfed the house. Residents were of the view that the firefighters were not prepared to tackle the inferno and Officer in Charge at the San Pedro Fire Department, Phillip Mencias, confirmed that they were faced with challenges.

 

Phillip Mencias, Officer in Charge, San Pedro Fire Department

Phillip Mencias

“One vehicle was dispatched and on arrival they saw that a two-storey wooden upper and concrete bottom was on fire—mostly the upper was on fire. Immediately they got into operation while at that time I was on my way from DFC area where I live and I brought the other truck. On arrival, we started to draft water from the open source and it took us about an hour and ten-fifteen minutes to bring it under control and then eventually we extinguished it.”

 

Duane Moody

“Complaints that the fire department reached late, one; and two, that you guys weren’t prepared when you were out here. Could you talk about that…about what happened in that process of fighting this blaze?”

 

Phillip Mencias

“Well it’s just two men on shift yo know. So if two men arrive, you have to wait until the others. For example, I had to come way from DFC; that took like fifteen, ten minutes for me to reach here, pick up the other truck and come to assist.”

 

A total of sixty-six persons, thirty-two of which are minors under the age of seventeen, have been displaced by the fire. All their belongings, school uniforms and household items went up in the blaze. While some have been taken in by friends and neighbors, others have been placed in shelters. With no place to go and no food to eat, it is most devastating to the residents. The Town Council has stepped in to assist the oppressed families.

 

Daniel Guerrero, Mayor, San Pedro Town

Daniel Guerrero

“We are focusing, probably Wednesday or Thursday, for a massive radio-thon fundraising and I’m asking the general public to please assist. We are good at it. So I am hoping that the Red Cross, the NEMO area representative and any other government department that can help is welcomed. I already spoke to the Red Cross just a few minutes ago, I spoke to NEMO, Miss Tim Rose; they are doing everything they can do right now. So definitely help is coming out pretty fast. Last night I was here and I helped two families immediately; took them to the Roman Catholic Government School. This morning, we took them for breakfast, we are going to take them for lunch and I already told them to put their names at the Town Council. We’ll help them with a small financial help, so they can manage to go around. But definitely we are looking for shelter and we’ll have to be looking for clothing also.”

 

Investigations are ongoing and the cause of the fire has still not been determined. Duane Moody for News Five.

 

According to Mayor Guerrero, the congestion within the area is the reason why the fire affected so many families. In the coming months, however, a master plan for the island will be officially signed that to ensure that residents respect setbacks. 

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