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Jun 27, 2016

88 Persons Homeless after Fire Devastates San Pedro Neighborhood

As many as eighty-eight persons have been affected by the biggest fire to erupt in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. The inferno sent clouds of fire into the sky as smoke engulfed the area on Sunday night. It is not yet known what sparked the blaze on Pescador Drive in the heart of the town, destroying a total of eleven buildings before it could be contained. Residents assisted in the efforts to put out the inferno as only one of two fire trucks in the prime tourism destination was operational. All hands are on deck right now as investigations take place. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The human impact of a massive overnight fire in the heart of San Pedro Town cannot be understated.  Images of the hellish experience continue to spread across all corners of social media with equal urgency as did the blaze itself.  At ground zero, responders of all sorts, including police officers, emergency management personnel, B.E.L. linesmen, and insurance agents, continue their assessment of the extensive damages.  An entire block has been virtually decimated by fire.

 

Abel Dorado

Abel Dorado, Fire Victim

“There was an abandoned home at the back of my residence and that was ablaze.  When I woke up and peeped through the window I saw it was ablaze and it crossed over to my building and the whole structure went down.”

 

That building, along with several others facing Pescador Drive, has been reduced to rubble.  Storefronts immediately across from the ruins have also been singed.  The entire area is a haze of smoke.

 

Reymundo Nunez

Reymundo Nunez, Proprietor, Lourdes Store

“I was alerted about one in the morning and I live about three miles south.  I came with the golf cart and I had to jump the fence, break the window and come in my store.  At that time there were some hoses on the street but no water, so I thought that I was going to lose everything, you know.  But fortunately, at that time, water came in and the fire was contained after that.”

 

…but not prior to consuming everything in its path.  Even before the smoke clears the damage is staggering.  Area Representative Manuel Heredia Junior, who was at the scene of the fire since being alerted sometime around one o’clock this morning, breaks down the damages numerically.

 

Manuel Heredia Jr.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Area Representative

“The total number of buildings completely destroyed were eleven.  The total number of buildings partially destroyed [was] six and then the number of businesses completely destroyed was eight and the number of businesses partially destroyed was six.  Total number of families affected were twenty-seven and then the total number of people affected altogether were eighty-eight.  The total number of families with complete loss was twenty-one and the total number of people with complete loss was sixty-eight.  The total number of families with partial loss was six and the total number of people within those six families are twenty.”

 

Among the many victims is the Guerrero family.  While they declined appearing on camera, a sibling narrated the events from her perspective.

 

Voice of: Fire Victim

“Around 12:03 I woke up.  They were banging on my door, my brother and my sister-in-law and that’s when the fire was already, their house was already on fire.  They live behind my house and their house is completely gone.  There we had, they lived upstairs and he has his workshop downstairs and my brother had a place downstairs also.  Then I had another brother who had his workshop, he’s an artist; so he lost everything.  There was no time to get anything out, we just wanted to get out alive, that was the main thing.  So we didn’t have time to take out much.  We had what we call a bodega and we had a lot of personal items and a lot of things that were, you know, so that’s a big loss too.”

 

Arguably the biggest fire in the history of the island, quenching the towering inferno and securing the perimeter was not without its share of hiccups.  The local police department has been working overtime since being called to the scene of the fire.

 

ASP Henry Jemmoth, Deputy O.C., San Pedro Police

“From the activation about 12:05 this morning, we have had a steady flow of officers, meaning that we have protected the entire area, the complete block that the fire has devastated.  We managed to stop a lot of looting last night during the course of the fire and we worked side by side with the fire department because they are a very small number.  So along with the public, the police officers also worked as firefighters as well.  We managed to, by 1:30 we managed to get out our officers who had worked the day shift so we had a maximum of about twenty officers on the ground.  So that made us cover the entire area from Pescador to the Barrier Reef Drive.”

 

Henry Jemmoth

While an investigation is ongoing into the cause of the fire, police on the island aren’t ruling out arson as a motive.

 

ASP Henry Jemmoth

“Based on the investigation, the fire [department] is doing its own investigation to see if it is an arson or it was fire just lit from something.  But we, as the police department, are mandated also to conduct an investigation, a criminal investigation into the matter and at this point we have one person detained.  We have two persons that we are questioning as to their whereabouts since last night.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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