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Jan 17, 2018

Early Morning Conflagration Displaces 28

A fire burnt out more than seven families in the early hours of this morning. Sometime after twelve, the fire started in an abandoned building on Glenn Street and the flames spread quickly. The blaze destroyed two other houses and left around twenty-eight persons without a roof over their head. The victims and residents in the area say they are disappointed in the firefighting and believe that the department was not ready to take on the blaze, but fire officials say otherwise and we will get to that shortly.  Neighbours believe vagrants started the inferno in the derelict building. News Five’s Andrea Polanco was at the scene of the fire today and tells us more about the devastating blow to the families who lost all their belongings.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

As many as twenty-eight persons are without a home tonight after a fire destroyed three wooden houses on Glenn Street in Belize City, sometime around twelve-thirty this morning. Only rubble – charred wood and warped zinc roofing remain. The families lost everything and fortunately, no one was injured in the blaze. The fire reportedly started from an abandoned wooden, two-storey house that once stood here – that the homeless occupied. It is not clear whether the fire was accidental, but neighbours say they believe the occupants were destructive and intentionally set it. And once the flames got going they were high and they spread next door to this house. Luckily, the family saw the fire and started to secure their property. Fred Usher Junior’s quick action saved his family home which sustained only scorched walls and some water damage.


Fred Usher Jr.

Fred Usher Jr., Resident

“Our house was already caught on fire, so it took me and my brother and a couple friends. I was distraught because I never felt or saw my mom cried and it took us about half an hour to out our side of the fire.”


Andrea Polanco

“How did you put out the flames that were spreading to your house?”


Fred Usher Jr.

“We had to buss our pipeline because the fireman run out of water and we had to stay in our yard but we took a risk, came in and took down our pipe and out as much we could.”


Andrea Polanco

“So, the fire started from the wooden house right beside yours; this house was unoccupied or were people living in here?”


Fred Usher Jr.

“Yes. As far as I can tell it was occupied by some crack heads.  It was abandoned.”


Andrea Polanco

“So, you feel like it was an accidental fire?”


Fred Usher Jr.

“I don’t think so.”


Residents say that the fire trucks arrived on scene more than thirty minutes later– by that time the first house was engulfed in flames and shortly after, the fire spread to two houses on the other side – burning rapidly through the old, mostly pine lumber, homes. Justo Miranda and eight family members were inside their three-bedroom house when they saw the flames. Miranda had to run out and stand by to watch the house where he has lived for seventeen years go up in flames.


Justo Miranda

Justo Miranda, Fire Victim [Translated]

“When my wife came out of the bathroom she had about five minutes she entered the bathroom and she turned around and looked at the window and she saw the fire. She shouted that our house was on fire and the house next to us. She started to shout and we started come out of the house.  All of us got out of the house quickly and we didn’t have a chance to take out anything because the fire was already on the top of the house and we wanted to go in and take out our stuff but we feared a beam from the top would fall on us.  I can’t come up yet with a value for what I had there because I had recently bought everything new; I had a washer – everything, almost brand new.”


And in no time the blaze from Miranda’s house spread to this third building. It was a large apartment-style structure where several members of one family lived–more than fifteen persons. They, too, were only able to save themselves and escape from the fire. Rutilio Villanueva and Annesteshia Conorquie lived here in separate units with their families. Villanueva was sleeping when the fire broke out – today he is still assessing his losses. Conorquie didn’t think the fire would reach her apartment but it did and she says about ten thousand dollars’ worth of valuables went up in smoke.


Rutilio Villanueva

Rutilio Villanueva, Fire Victim

“We were sleeping and thanks to the neighbour they came to wake us up and told us that fire and when I came out and opened my door. I saw big flames and I couldn’t do nothing more.”


Andrea Polanco

“You don’t have a value for what you’ve lost as yet?”


Rutilio Villanueva

“Not as yet, ma’am. But we’ve lost everything; every, everything.”


Annesteshia Conorquie

Annesteshia Conorquie, Fire Victim

“We nuh have nothing. Everything gone. When I tell you gone – gone. The downstairs gone, the upstairs gone; the apartments gone.”


Andrea Polanco

“When you saw that fire start there – did you think that it would spread way down to your house?”


Anesteshia Conorquie

“No, ma’am. When the fire start, I come out and deh tell me fire and I mi think they could control that so  mi gwein back dah my bed and when they grab me dah because the pine wood start to bun and it mi di blaze and done ketch the next side and the pieces of fire di drop ketch the back ah fi we house. So, I run out and the only thing weh I could ah mi get dah me and mi two pickney; nothing else.”


Residents and the fire victims claim that the firefighting failed them. They allege that the fire trucks were delayed and didn’t have enough water to contain the inferno and believe that two of the houses didn’t have to burn down.


Rutilio Villanueva

“Really and truly, the fire department failed a lot because they took more than half an hour to get here and when they get here they reached with a little bit of water. Because they could have controlled and avoid the two house to burn down but they didn’t have sufficient water to control it, so from there they tek another hour to get another pump to get to the canal to get here. And by then both houses were in flames and we couldn’t do nothing; we couldn’t save anything. But I blame the fire department on these two houses burn down.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


If you would like to help the Miranda Family you can reach them at 632-3295 or make a deposit to Atlantic Bank account number 2-1-0-8-7-3-6-0-6.  To assist Conorquie, you can call 207-0407 and if you can help Villanueva to rebuild, you can contact him at 666-4574 or 661-5531.

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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