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Jun 28, 1999

Plenty of blame for Victoria Street fire

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Three days after a fire demolished six houses, damaged two others and left over fifty people without a place to live, the cause of the Victoria Street fire is still not known. Fire officials are still examining the possibilities, one of which was a faulty appliance in one of the apartments at number 68. But on Friday night the cause of the blaze was not as important as putting out the flames and that wasn’t easy, for a variety of reasons.

Calvin Hendricks, Witness

“To me the Fire Department is the one responsible for the fire. They run over here to participate in the fire; this is not a beauty contest; this is a fire.”

The blaze burned for over an hour and fifteen minutes before it was finally contained, largely through the efforts of volunteers.

Calvin Hendricks

“When the fire truck came here there was no water. And the breeze was blowing and no water at all and that is what caused it to be spreading like this. About 20 minutes and it was about half an hour after that we got water pumping in the system.”

But according to Acting Fire Chief, Norris Fisher, the Fire Service is not to blame for the delay. He says fire trucks reached the scene just minutes after being called, but if certain measures were not taken before they began dousing the houses with water, the firemen could have been electrocuted.

Norris Fisher, Acting Fire Chief

“At 6:27, that is four minutes afterwards, the 2 trucks that were dispatched by the officer in charge, radioed back to say that they needed B.E.L. to cut the high tension wire because the live wire was next to the house and they could not throw water on the house.”

Other problems also compounded the fire department’s efforts.

Norris Fisher

“The reason why they came in and were stationed on New Road is because they could not get water from the Bradley building where the Riverside Hall used to be, because cars were parked in front of it. People went to see the fire and the truck could not get to the water, so the place was used as a parking lot.”

Authorities believe the fire started at 68 Victoria Street on the bottom floor of the two-storey house. The rear portion of the house was occupied by Carolyn Cooper.

Norris Fisher

“According to her statement she had been in the house earlier but she was outside when she was alerted that there was smoke coming from inside. On going there she found black smoke inside and she asked for help to take out her gas tank and that is how far we have gotten in the investigation.”

In the end, six houses were completely burnt and two sustained minor damages. Eight families of fifty-two people are now left homeless. Arreini Palacio for News Five.

According to the Belize Electricity Limited, feeder four, which encompasses Victoria Street, New Road and Barrack Road, was tripped or turned off at 6:33 on Friday evening, six minutes after the Fire Service arrived on the scene.

In related news, there was also another fire early Saturday morning, in the same area, off Castle Street, but it is not believed to be related to the earlier fire. In fact it may be a case of arson following a domestic dispute. The matter has been turned over to the police.

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