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Sep 24, 1998

Fire leaves two families homeless

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Five days ago it was the northside… today it was the southside’s turn to feel the heat of a fire. And while this morning’s blaze was less costly than Saturday’s disaster, it still left two families without a place to call home.

The fire started shortly before nine this morning and totally destroyed a two-storey house at the corner of Antelope Street and Central American Boulevard. The building, which was occupied by the Arnold and Jones families, was quickly engulfed in flames, after witnesses said they saw smoke coming from the upper flat. According to Veronica Jones, who lived upstairs, her daughter, was not feeling well and was resting when she was overcome by the strong smell of smoke.

Veronica Jones, Fire Victim

“She said she just smell smoke and she was choking and she just ran out and shout and some people came and they took; they help take some stuff, but the smoke was too much.”

Michael Usher, Brother

“One neighbor said he saw the fire coming from the bedroom, from the bathroom, but I don’t really know. I got a call saying that the house was on fire and came over here as quickly as possible.”

While Jones was lucky to be able to save some of her household items, her sister, Barbara Arnold who lived downstairs was not so lucky. Arnold said she was at work, when she heard about the fire and by the time she reached the scene, it was too late.

Barbara Arnold, Fire Victim

“I was just here; I just watch my house going up in flames.”

As Arnold helplessly watched her household possessions burn, she says what was equally devastating, was the lack of fire fighting equipment at the scene.

Barbara Arnold

“My house was already engulfed; I couldn’t save anything. So I kept yelling and asking, where are the other fire engines; somebody please help, get the other fire engines. Whichin, I don’t know how long it took the call to reach them, it could be that.

Definitely, it could have been saved, at least some of the things would be wet, but maybe, maybe the lower flat at least could have been saved or part of it, because the upstairs is wooden.”

Witnesses say when the fire service arrived on the scene, there was nothing but confusion and delay, as the firemen appeared to be having problems with their equipment and water supply.

Floyd Hamilton, Witness

“The firemen look like, I don’t know why the delay, but it took at least twenty to twenty five minutes for them to reach here, before nine ‘o clock. Smoke still was coming out from the top when they reach here. From then, their hose burst after they hook it up and from then, the fire burst through.”

Veronica Jones

“I think a neighbor called the Fire Department and they said that the fire truck came. That’s the only one there and it’s really right at a hydrant there and somebody could have just loose that and made a connection.”

Q: “Why didn’t you all use the hydrant that is directly in front of the house?”

Norris Fisher, Administrative Officer, Nat’l Fire Service

“When we came here, to have the water people to have the water pressure stepped up, they had to increase the pressure throughout the whole water system and that just does not happen in a minute or so. It takes a while to develop the pressure that is needed.”

Norris Fisher, who is the Administrative Officer for the National Fire Service, said after they accessed water from the North Creek Canal, about two blocks away, unruly motorists caused further problems.

Norris Fisher

“The traffic people, the traffic on a whole has no respect for the fire service. They just keep jumping over the lines and causing the pressure to drop because whenever the vehicles cross the hose, the water flow stops and when it gets off, there is a rush. And because of that, we had a breakage in the water line. We had one break just in front of the building and another line broke just further.”

Q: “Mr. Fisher, if you all did not encounter these problems, do you believe that you all would have been able to save this building?”

Norris Fisher

“We would have been able to save much, more than what is left there.”

Floyd Hamilton

“Very slow. I mean, they can’t blame the traffic, cause traffic was hectic this morning, but by the time when the fire started, the whole street was peel, so, they are very slow.”

Fisher contends that the traffic was so bad, that it was not until traffic officers started ticketing the drivers, that they had some clearance to fight the blaze. At this time it is not clear as to what may have started the fire, but Jones suspects that maybe the blaze was caused by some faulty wiring.

Veronica Jones

“Well, somebody said it started from the bathroom. What happen is that I had done some wiring all over and I remove all the wiring from upstairs and we did wiring outside, so you could see the wiring. The only thing we had a connection from the bathroom.”

A total of nine people were left homeless. It is not known if the building was insured, as the owner presently resides in the United States.

The fire victims will stay with relatives until they can find new housing.


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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