Castle Street Fire Guts 2 Homes and Salvation Army Church
Thirteen people have been displaced by two separate fires that happened between Friday night and Sunday morning in Belize City. We start with the most recent fire that happened very early on Sunday morning. At least ten people were left without a home after a fire destroyed three buildings on Castle Street, including a Salvation Army Church. Fire officials say that the fire was intentionally set to the home of Kayla Reynolds. Reynolds reported that she and her family discovered they were locked in when they tried to escape from the fire. Luckily, the family was unhurt. Another family was also displaced after their house was gutted. News Five’s Andrea Polanco has more:
Three buildings on Castle Street, two homes and a church, were destroyed by fire around four-thirty on Sunday morning. The fire started in a home occupied at the time by five people – two adults and three minors. The small wooden structure was located between these two buildings. But after the blaze, there is little trace of the family home – only a small rubble of zinc and charred wood remains. The Fire Service say that the fire was deliberately set. Reports are that the doors from the home were locked from outside to prevent the family from getting out during the fire.
Orin Smith, Station Officer, National Fire Service
“On arrival on the scene, we found the wooden 20×24 structure fully engulfed in flames. This structure sat between two two-storey concrete structures on either sides. The upper flat of both of these concrete structures, one at 25 Castle Street, the other at 19 Castle Street were also on fire. The National Fire Service got into operation to extinguish the fire. As a result, the wooden structure at 21 Castle Street was totally destroyed and the upper flat of both of the concrete structures were gutted by the fire. The fire originated on the wooden structure on the south west section of that structure. The fire is classified as incendiary in nature.”
“There are allegations that the wooden structure was locked from the outside. Can you comment on that?”
“According to the occupant, yes, they tried to get out via the door but it was apparently jammed, it wouldn’t open so they came out via a side window.”
“Might it have been another fire tragedy, were they not able to find a side way out?”
“It most certainly could have ended up in another fire tragedy. We are grateful that God was with the family. They did manage to find a way out.”
As the flames spread through the wooden home, they caught the roof of this concrete house next to it. A family of five lived upstairs, while two other persons lived in the lower flat. Everything was destroyed by the fire in the upper flat, while downstairs suffered water damage. Luis Barcelona says that he and his family are fortunate to have escaped unhurt.
Luis Barcelona Sr., Fire Victim
“We mi the sleep when we hear this cracking noise inna wi room. We get up. My girlfriend get up and she look outside the window and we saw a big blaze and she say that dah fire. We just grab weh we could grab and we grab wi young children because I got a new born of two weeks, so we just ran out.”
“What all got destroyed in your home?”
Luis Barcelona Sr.
“Everything I had.”
“Do you have an estimated value for the things you have lost?”
Luis Barcelona Sr.
“Hmm. We just get a sofa set that is valued like two thousand seven hundred dollars. We had a bed, three beds; I would say roughly about seven thousand dollars in contents.”
“What about the structural damage?”
Luis Barcelona Sr.
“That is a total thing. I would say about fifteen to twenty thousand dollars. These things are material stuff. We could always replace them. But the lives we cannot replace the lives, so that is why we just ran out and grab our children first and the rest could come after wards.It hurt that we lost everything, yes, but they are material stuff.”
“How do you rebuild from here?”
“We start from scratch again, one day at a time.”
Also having to rebuild is the Salvation Army. Their church on Castle Street is located on the other side of the wooden home that was destroyed by fire. They received calls in the early hours of Sunday morning that the church was on fire. They lost everything on the second floor. They are still assessing the damage they sustained.
Major Joliker Leandre, Regional Commander, Salvation Army
“The structure has suffered significant damages from the top floor. It is a two-storey building and basically the roof is totally gone and there is structure damage to the concrete and so on. It is really difficult to tell base on what was inside and so on and so forth. You know there is alegacy, most people would have the memories, but the records and so forth. The loss is very significant for us. The fire spread quickly, had it not been the professionalism and the quick response of the Fire Brigade, I am sure the entire neighborhood would have been destroyed. But we must commend the fire brigade for the selfless fire. They prevented the fire, contained the fire and prevented it from moving to the other buildings next door.”
Major Monica Wilson, District Secretary, Salvation Army
“The folks of that community on north side are very supportive to the army. A lot of them don’t attend church per se, but they see the army as their church home. Whenever there is a death in the family, or somebody needs some sort of counseling, or they need assistance because somebody is not working or so forth, they look to us. So, I think it is a significant loss for the community in general.”
Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.
The Salvation Army says that while it will not be using the church on Castle Street for the next few weeks, they will be holding service at the Central Church on Cemetery Road. They maintain that they will continue their work in the Castle Street neighborhood despite this set back. If you’d like to assist the Barcelona family, you can call them at 623-7810.