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Oct 30, 2006

Fire destroys warehouses in Corozal Free Zone

Story PictureOver the weekend, Belizean and Mexican fire officials pooled resources to combat a fire that raged for several hours in the Corozal Free Zone. This morning I travelled to the scene and discovered that while damage was minimal, the incident has highlighted a lack of fire fighting resources in the congested shopping area.

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
Tonight authorities continue to investigate the cause of a fire that completely destroyed two zinc buildings in the Marlin Plaza inside the Corozal Free Zone.

?It took fire-fighters close to seven hours to bring the blaze under control. The Marlin Plaza owned by Mexican investor, Naomi Conte was used as a warehouse by several shop owners. It also housed an office for the both casinos and the free zone radio station.?

Because the plaza was situated at the rear of the compound and away from the main shopping area, the incident did not disrupt services. According to C.F.Z.?s Deputy Chief Executive Officer Julio Txul, it is believed the fire started from one of the rented store rooms inside one of the buildings. Txul says the first alarm sounded at ten twenty on Friday night. Within minutes, the C.F.Z.?s small fire response unit responded to the area.

Julio Txul, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, C.F.Z.
?So they were the first ones to act on the situation. Then we requested the assistance of the Corozal fire station and further on we went to request assistance from Belize City. Not to mention also that our friends from Chetumal came to assist us also.?

However, the fire fighters faced many challenges that made it difficult for them to extinguish the flames. National Fire Service?s Assistant Fire Chief Ted Smith explains why the structure?s design prevented the fire fighters from entering the building without putting their own lives at risk.

Ted Smith, Assistant Fire Chief
?It was difficult to send anybody into the structure with the amount of heat. So a sort of a defensive fire fight was put in place, but the beams as they were heated they got soft and collapsed under their own weight and the weight of the structure. It makes fire fighting difficult as it covers down material and must of these stores were well stocked?theses warehouses. Some were stores and some were warehouses were well stocked and these materials continued to burn in between. It was a two storey structure as well so the floor on the top collapsed on the material at the bottom, and the roof collapsed on the second floor, which makes fire fighting extremely difficult without moving away the zinc.?

The authorities say it is too early to determine whether the fire was the result of an electrical problem or if it was deliberately set.

Ted Smith
?We can go through the routine fire investigation analyzing the burn pattern, the debris, conduct interview with the security that was here, analyzing burn pattern and direction of fire spread and things to that effect. Right now the investigation is in full swing and I would not want to release any information at this point until we have additional information. That?s about what I can say about the investigation.?

Julio Txul
?Right now it is too early to make any conclusion to the investigation. We will wait until the Fire Department makes their final report and then we can make an official report to that effect.?

News Five understands that some of the units used as warehouses were insured. The fire is the second incident in three years to occur at the C.F.Z. Today both the facility?s management and the national fires service are looking to forge a stronger working relationship to see how best such incidents can be more effectively addressed.

Julio Txul
?We need to examine our guidelines and procedures. We need to update them, but that is something that will be done as soon as the investigation is finished.?

Ted Smith
?We look at that; we will go back to the drawing board. This morning we had a meeting and looked upon what we have done, and how best we can improve our capabilities as well as corporation amongst ourselves to expedite the response from our unit here in Corozal. Work more closely together, we have been doing well and we look upon how we can improve our hard working relationship.?

With the assistance of their Mexican counterparts, the fire was finally extinguished around six on Saturday morning. No injuries were reported.

The Corozal Free Zone fire unit, which is manned by the C.F.Z.’s security officers, has received training from the National Fire Service. The unit’s primary resource is one small fire truck.

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