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Jun 12, 2018

Firefighters Ran Out of Water; Single Stairs was Only Exit

As the hellish fire raged, the community formed a bucket brigade to assist the Fire Department to fight the uncontrolled blaze. The fire trucks ran out of water but another most disturbing factor that contributed to the loss of life was that there was only one flight of stairs to the upper flat. There was no other exit that the family could have used to escape from the crackling flames. News Five’s Duane Moody has the reaction from the Fire Department.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The tragedy on San Pedro has many in disbelief that none of the four persons could have been saved from the inferno. Antonia Guerrero, who lives next door to the Nunez/Bacab family, says that David Nunez broke in a window in an attempt to save two of his children.

 

Voice of: Antonia Guerrero, Neighbor

“When I come out, I see the verandah mi done on fire and they just have one door and that was causing the problem that she don’t know how to escape from there. David broke up the window and jump from the top, but my concern he gone in, but the smoke win him and he had to let go the little girl and he jumped from the window.”

 

Duane Moody

“So he only escaped with one child?”

 

Voice of: Antonia Guerrero

“Yes. With Sammy.”

 

Duane Moody

“So Allan and Mia were trapped inside?”

 

Voice of: Antonia Guerrero

“Yes with her mom and a lee niece.”

 

That aside, Guerrero says that she was also concerned about her house and others in proximity to the billowing flames. A third house suffered damages to its side adjacent to the blaze, but fortunately was not completed gutted.

 

Voice of: Antonia Guerrero, Neighbor

“Fire engine just come and like ih come visit us; ih neva do nothing. The fire engine just stayed adorn right here; doesn’t do anything.”

 

Duane Moody

“So it didn’t firefight any at all?”

 

Voice of: Antonia Guerrero

“They come, but they don’t do anything. And so I tell them I got a big well there and nobody cared about the well until my nephew came and he said buckets and then they started to throw water on the thing and then the thing started to pop like gunshots, but it wasn’t gunshots, it was the zinc.”

 

Residents also say that the fire service was unprepared and quickly ran out of water. Brave bystanders got into action and formed a bucket brigade to help quell the inferno.

 

Luigi Chable

Luigi Chable, Tenant

“When I arrived, the firefighters were here and they tried to out off the fire, but they only did one pump and they left because there was no water. But all the neighbors they started to take out the bumps and they were the ones fighting more for the fire to calm down. It took like half an hour when the firefighters got back, but the house was gone; you can’t control it.”

 

Station Manager at the National Fire Service, Orin Smith, says that the department responded when it received the call forty-five minutes after the blaze started. He, however, explains why the responding trucks ran out of water and the process of firefighting given the circumstances, beyond their control.

 

Orin Smith

Orin Smith, Station Manager, National Fire Service

“There are two units in San Pedro. These units, compared to what we have in Belize City, are pretty much small. The combine of both trucks I think has an approximate seven hundred gallons. If you get on the scene and you use three lengths of hose, seventy millimeter by one hundred foot length, it takes thirty gallons to full one length of hose. That’s ninety gallon. If you are using two branch pipe that discharge one hundred gallons per minute, that’s two hundred and ninety gallons per minute being discharged. Out of seven hundred gallons, you have at least just over two and a half minutes of firefighting before the trucks had to leave the scene to find water supply and that is what occurred.”

 

But did the home lack an egress? As you heard Guerrero say earlier, David Nunez had to break in a window to escape from the blaze and residents say there was only one flight of stairs to access the upper flat of the two-storey structure in which the four deceased were trapped. While the investigation will look at all these issues, Smith says that there is reason for concern.

 

Orin Smith

“I do know that yes we have a lot of structure in this country and I have even seen many in San Pedro where this one flight of stairs is. And even more concerning is the higher the building go, literally, they continue with that one flight of stairs being center place, which is not by any code standard and should not be by any code standard. It is a difficult thing to fix when they are already constructed and occupied, but new structures we can get a grip on to enforce a minimum of two exits per floor. Not closely related to each other, but in different sections of the building that when a fire incident occur, that one incident would not render both access to exits incapable at the same time.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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