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Oct 28, 2003

Evidence points to arson in island fire

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Almost as soon as residents of San Pedro awoke to the smell of smoke on Thursday morning, speculation began as to how a fire could start within the concrete confines of the town’s largest supermarket. That’s exactly what fire investigators have been wondering… and while they have yet to come to a conclusion, the evidence is mounting.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

There was nothing occurring naturally inside the storeroom that could have started the fire at Island Supermarket in San Pedro Ambergris Caye. That is the latest word coming out from the ongoing investigation by the National Fire Service. Fire Chief Henry Baizar says they have traced the origin of the fire to a third shelf inside that storage facility that contained only boxes of groceries.

Henry Baizar, Fire Chief

“There was electrical things in the room like bulbs, fluorescents, and these kind of things. But after our thorough investigation into the remains of the electrical things, look at the switch boxes; everything electrical was intact. There are no signs of no electrical shortage or anything to that effect, so we had to rule out electrical.”

Jacqueline Woods

“What about spontaneous combustion?”

Henry Baizar

“Well, nothing much is in there for spontaneous combustion, so virtually that is non-existent likewise.”

Baizar says because at this time they do not know what ignited the blaze they are unable to conclude that the fire was deliberately set; but they have certainly not ruled out arson.

Henry Baizar

“We have a few leads that we are looking at at the moment and we should probably conclude in the next day or two because we do have some very good leads that we are looking at. The thing here is that there is not much within the store that could have started the fire.”

Equally suspicious is what the fire fighters found once they gained access into the building. According to Baizar, they observed an opening on top of the roof that led down inside the building to a corridor. At the end of the hallway there was one single door to the storeroom and supermarket. Baizar says what is strange is that they found a ladder inside the corridor just under the roof’s opening, along with evidence suggesting that the door, which can only be dead bolted from inside, was never locked after the store had closed for the day.

Henry Baizar

“From the burn of the fire pattern, it shows that the door was left open. This door was left open and so virtually if someone wanted to do something, someone had to know about it and had to know the details about getting into the building and getting out of the building.”

The supermarket was owned by Nasr Harmouch and the business was insured for three million dollars with Atlantic Insurance Company.

Baizar says their final report will be handed over to Atlantic Insurance Company and the police. Meanwhile, News 5 understands that the insurance company has brought in its own professional investigator to determine what started the fire.

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