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Feb 25, 2019

Fire Wipes Out the August Family in Santa Elena

A fire completely destroyed a family home in Santa Elena on Saturday.  The house, located at number seven George Price Highway, just before the Hawksworth Bridge, quickly burnt to the ground and residents say some of the fault may be on an “illegal” structure built in the middle of the alleyway. The concrete structure with zinc roofing has been at that spot for more than twenty years, but it was never removed despite the inconvenience it caused to neighbours. Well, today that building was knocked down clean.  The August family told us that one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars in personal belongings went up in smoke when the fire wiped out their property; nothing was insured. Reporter Andrea Polanco went west today to speak with the family.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Fifty-nine-year-old Gregorio August was at home alone when a fire started inside his house in Santa Elena, Cayo.  August says that sometime after three-thirty on Saturday afternoon he heard a noise – and then he saw smoke inside his house – he quickly realized it came from the wooden addition to his concrete house. That addition was a bedroom built from pine lumber – so when the blaze started it spread quickly. August was only able to run out and save himself. Today, August told us he believes it was an electrical fault that caused the fire.


Gregorio Thomas August

Gregorio Thomas August, Fire Victim

“I mi di watch TV and suddenly I hear something gone “pssshhh” and then the smoke start to go in through this window. From in here it started and from there the smoke started to go inna my house. So, I unplug everything and knock off the outlet. Everything I knock off but I couldn’t do nothing because dah mi wah fast thing. This dah my daughter room – from the room here. She had the extension and suh dah mussie from the extension it start.”


Andrea Polanco

“So, electrical – you are saying is the cause?”


Gregorio Thomas August

“Yes. Right.”


So, August had to stand by and watch his house go up in flames. He, three other adults and two children who lived here lost everything. Only this pile of rubble is left behind from thirty- five-plus-years of work and investment in his three-bedroom home. When the fire service arrived – they didn’t have direct access to the burning structure – causing massive delays and difficulties for fire-fighter to put out the fire.  Their access was impeded by this small concrete building which was blocked entrance to the alley-way.


Gregorio Thomas August

“I see smoke and my friend yah come out and say bwai mek ah call the fireman. He called the fireman and he come but again, that structure was there and they couldn’t come in. By the time they hauled the hose way here it done burn.”


Bernadette August Can, Sister of Fire Victim

“The fire truck couldn’t come in way to where the fire was present. So, they had to roll their hose to here by the time they come in the electrical wires were on fire, so they couldn’t fire. So, when they finished off and came – so what they did is that they saved my house and my little brother’s house, and this was already destroyed because it started from the pine and in seconds that went. So, they couldn’t do couldn’t do nothing but out the fire.”


Bernadette August Can

Andrea Polanco

“So, you feel that the building that was there – that really…?”


Bernadette August Can

“Yes, that building really messed the situation.”


And today a resident offered to use his heavy equipment to demolish the structure that was built smack in the middle of the alley-way.  The owner of the property and one of the residents signed an agreement to knock the building down to open access to the houses in the back. The resident agreed to paid four thousand dollars to the owner Clifford Sabala. For more than twenty years, this structure that should have never been built in the first place was inconveniencing the people who live to the back here. And it seems it took a family to lose all their belongings before something was done. From what we gathered, it appears that in recent years no-one wanted to speak out against it because the owner is an in-law of area representative Rene Montero.


Earl Trapp

Earl Trapp, Mayor, San Ignacio & Santa Elena

“They signed an agreement whereby they will accept four thousand dollars and they gave a time-line to go ahead and demolish it so that they can get on with their normal life. So, that is what the family and friends and neighbours did this morning. They demolished the elephant structure that has been there standing for years doing nothing and now what the Council will do is to do its fair share by constructing a cemented alley that will allow free access to the property of the people.”


Andrea Polanco

“Mayor are you able to say perhaps why this has gone on so long – was there any fear among the residents to touch that particular building because they feel that the owner may have some connections with the area representative?”


Earl Trapp

“I will not directly say to the area rep. But, yes, I think there may have been some hindrance on the part of politics, indeed, yes, and that is the reason why it wasn’t touched.”


Mayor Earl Trapp says his Council and the wider Twin Towns community will be doing their best to assist the August Family. Gregorio August says neighbors, relatives and friends are chipping in to help them during this difficult time. But that they are most in need of construction materials to put back a roof over his family’s head.  Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


If you can assist the August family, please call 601-9232 or 603-8121.

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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