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Oct 23, 1998

Juanita’s and Sons up in flames

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It seemed like a case of deja-vu, but the heat and flames on Albert Street last night and its accompanying blackout were real. In the daylight city residents could only sigh as they passed the burnt out shell of yet another favorite downtown store. News Five was at the scene.

Friday’s early morning fire was an eerie reminder of the inferno that destroyed a total of seven buildings just one year ago, ironically in the same area, at the corner of Prince and Albert Streets in downtown Belize City. This time it was the eighty year old building and popular family store Juanita’s and Sons. The building, which had suffered only minor water damage in the 1997 incident, was completely burnt this time and all its contents destroyed.

At this time it is not known what started the blaze, but witnesses say they saw smoke coming from the upstairs flat and that the fire quickly spread throughout the two story wooden structure. While the firemen did their best to contain the blaze, eyewitnesses say it was obvious that the National Fire Service was having problems getting water to the fire.

Q: “Initially, did you all have problems with water, Mr. Baizar? A number of people are saying that you all didn’t get to it, started attacking the fire, until forty five minutes after it started.”

Henry Baizar, Fire Chief

“Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know when the fire started. The timing when we got here, we had a bit of problems with water. One of the trucks was giving us a bit of problems to actually lift the water off from the canal and we had a little short delay with water.”

The fire, which reportedly started shortly after one, took almost an hour to bring under control, but not before the blaze spread to the top floor of the nearby three story concrete building of Starlight and Femina Stores. To prevent an impending disaster, the firemen had to climb a ladder with breathing apparatus to quickly extinguish the flames already inside.

While the fire was finally brought under control by two fifteen, a.m., many believed what stopped the flames from spreading is the fact that the burning structure was mostly surrounded by tall concrete buildings recently constructed after the original structures were burnt to the ground last year.

Henry Baizar

“Right now the fire is under control and we are mapping up. Mapping up is actually making sure that everything is out and safe for people to come back in to the area and that the residents can go in and see what is wrong with their places and what not.”

But when the smoke finally cleared, the extent of the damage was too much for Joe Hoy, the owner of Juanita’s store. Hoy, who was too distraught to appear on camera said although the building and contents were insured for three hundred thousand dollars, he had just gotten in a new stock and estimates the loss of damages at half a million dollars. Hoy says, while he has plans to rebuild, it will be some time before they are back in business. Jacqueline Woods for News Five.

The upper story of Juanita’s was being used as a warehouse for Dr. Harry Hoy’s Belize Diagnostic Center. Fortunately the facility was relocated earlier this year.

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