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Apr 22, 2005

Children safe after fire destroys Marla?s House of Hope

Story PictureIt had the potential to be a disaster of horrible proportions. But quick action by a courageous woman saved over a dozen precious lives as a fire Thursday evening destroyed a children’s home in Belmopan. Earlier today, I visited the nation’s capital to assess the damage.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Most of the children had already gone to bed when fire started in the boys? room at Marla’s House of Hope.

Yolanda Mendez, Coordinator, Marla’s House of Hope
“It was very devastating when I reached here and I saw the flames on the roof and was wondering if all the children were safe. But thank goodness all the neighbours and everybody help to take out the children, so they were all safe.”

The building provides shelter for sixteen girls and boys between the ages of two months and fourteen years who have been either abused or neglected. It was one of the young residents, a six-year-old boy, who reportedly started the fire.

Yolanda Melendez
According to the housemother a little six year old boy was already asleep and was suppose to woke up and had some kind of match or I don’t know a type of lighter or something in his schoolbag and he was playing with it and his mattress caught fire.”

The six-year-old boy was found standing by his bedside watching the blaze as the flames quickly started to spread. The caretaker, Christine Alford, says it was a terrifying scene. Alford says she tried to put out the fire, but as it got out of control, she started getting the children outside of the building.

Christine Alford, Caretaker, Marla’s House of Hope
“We had like sixteen kids in the house. I had four of them sleeping in the room, and the fire was right in the room, so I had to try to wake everyone up. I know the bigger kids were right behind me and they didn’t want to help me.”

“No children were awake, all of them were asleep in there…oh, it was a nightmare for me. I had to take out the little ones from the crib and he was disabled so I had to try to do my best to haul two at the moment. It was horrible, a horrible experience for me alone because the other girls, no one didn’t want to help me.”

None of the children were injured. The building however did suffer significant damage. The home’s coordinator Yolanda Mendez says although the fire truck quickly responded, there was just not enough water to battle the flames.

Yolanda Mendez
?We had a very small fire engine, which responded very quickly, but the amount of water I understand was only four hundred gallons of water, which was not enough and the truck had to make three trips, so by the time it came back the flames were up again. They moved very fast, but I think they did their best.”

There was nothing that could have been done to save one of the children’s most precious dolls, which will be kept as a reminder of the tragedy. Neighbours, however, did manage to save a number of household appliances and other items.

For the moment, the children will be staying at a temporary location. Mendez says they have been reassured that the damage can be repaired and that in one month they should be back at Marla?s House of Hope.

The boy’s room, staff rooms, and two bathrooms were completely destroyed by the fire. The building was only two years old.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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