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Nov 28, 2005

Northside fire leaves restaurant/guesthouse in ashes

Story PictureIn a city filled with wooden homes, the sight of thick black smoke rising above rooftops ignites fear in the hearts of many. Such was the case on Saturday afternoon when a fire that began in the bedroom of a guesthouse on the northside of the city threatened an entire neighbourhood. News Five cameraman Rick Romero was at the location most of the afternoon to capture the dramatic scene. But as I found out this morning, even as the victims’ lives were going up in smoke, others were taking advantage of their misfortune.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
By the time fire fighters arrived at number eleven Handyside Street, the blazing inferno had consumed Mars restaurant and guesthouse and was beginning to cause damage to nearby houses.

Tony Cervantes, Neighbour
?As I opened my front door all I could see was one gulf of fire on the whole building. You couldn?t take the heat over here, so I close back all the house and I ran down because there was nobody at home, just me and the children who were screaming.?

Marcella Weatherburn, Neighbour
?When I lift up my head and I saw the flames like it was already coming across, so all I did, I just ran out and left everything you know.?

Voice of Neighbour
?My daughter run inside my room and say ?ma, lets go, fire.? She grab her particulars you know, we run down the steps. When we get down there, when I look like fire di come from through the window.?

Tony Cervantes
?We got some hose and the boys brought four hose and we started to wet the house, wet the all front here with bucket like a bucket brigade and I must tell you it?s an experience I never want to go through again.?

Ted Smith, Assistant Fire Chief
?That fire was a dangerous fire that could have easily swept through that area because of the close proximity of the other buildings them.?

The National Fire Service says they have been able to determine that the fire started from the guesthouse inside room number four, however, they have not been able to ascertain the cause of it. Today officials say investigations continue even into the possibility that the fire was deliberately set.

On Saturday, the establishment?s proprietor, Maria Espat Evans lost everything she owned, including her Toyota Hilux which was parked across the street. The vehicle burst into flames and was totally destroyed.

Owner of the building, John Estephan, says the fire has also destroyed several apartments situated to the back of the complex. He estimates his total losses to be between five to six hundred thousand dollars.

John Estephan, Building Owner
?Only beds, TV, air condition and that?s all.?

?The whole hotel and the restaurant and about five, six apartments were damaged.?

Ted Smith
?Earlier that day it was occupied, according to information received, the tenant checked out and that room was already cleaned by the person responsibly for cleaning that room.?

This morning area residents in the area told News Five that it took the fire service almost thirty minutes to respond to the scene.

John Estephan
?Well they came, maybe in half an hour time, they try to connect the water, but it never worked, there was a long time before they get the big fire pump and that one take over the place.?

Tony Cervantes
?A little and then apparently there was not much pressure, so like for twenty minutes we really had little water coming. But when the big pump come and that really got everything under control.?

Jacqueline Woods
?How did it take before the first fire truck came on the scene??

Tony Cervantes
?About twenty minutes, about that. Because everybody is screaming call for the fire pump, call for the fire pump, but nobody?s calling because everybody?s so excited running around noh; it was rough.?

Assistant Fire Chief Ted Smith says as soon as they received the call they rushed to the location. Smith says not only were they able to contain an inferno that erupted in a congested neighbourhood, but the fire fighters did their best under the circumstances.

Ted Smith
?We could never have sufficient water. No fire truck in Belize could deal with this type of fire. We would have had to have 2000 fire trucks with water lines, come on, not even the great America has fire trucks to deal with fires like that. That?s why they put down adequate hydrant systems. We know the condition of our hydrants, we can?t go beat that, that?s a horse weh done beat, so the department do what it can do best. We responded quickly to the area after we received the information, it uses the water in the tank to contain the fire at first, and one of the trucks were breaked off and sent to a canal which was nearby to re-supply the scene.?

Today those residents who were affected spent most of their time cleaning up the mess.

Tony Cervantes
?Well all the upstairs windows, the glasses were broken and the wall they had to break into the wall to get all the water out and all the inside was wet with water.?

To add insult to injury, not only did the Weatherburns suffer damage to their residence and vehicle from the flames and water, but their possessions were also robbed.

Marcella Weatherburn
?Well the veranda and so on and our vehicle, one of our vehicle that was parked in the yard. But the saddest thing was that the guys who came to help you know, take things out of the house, they helped themselves to things. My daughter and I were to go to Florida on Wednesday, so they helped themselves to our money and all jewellery, you know. They just turned over the draws and the house was in a mess.?

We understand one other house was burglarised. Some of the stolen items have been recovered and police have detained a number of persons for questioning. The fire was finally brought under control around 2:10 on Saturday afternoon.

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