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Feb 20, 2023

Twelve Persons Displaced By Late-Morning Fire in King’s Park, Belize City

A devastating late-morning fire on Simon Lamb Street in Belize City has left up to twelve individuals displaced. A two-storey wooden apartment building occupied by eighty-five-year-old landlord Neftale Martinez, his son and at least eleven other persons, caught fire just after eleven a.m. The fire moved through the building so quickly that there was no time for the tenants who were home to save any of their personal belonging. The majority of them were out working. The fire then spread across the neighboring home, causing further damages. Three vehicles that were parked in that yard were completely burnt. A third house to the rear of the apartment building was also affected. The nearby primary school was forced to put its evacuation plan into action. Classes were disrupted and called off for the day. It is being described as the worst fire in Belize City since Chateau Caribbean burnt down in 2016. News Five’s Paul Lopez reports.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Over a dozen residents from five different families have been displaced following a structural fire on Simon Lamb Street in Belize City. The blaze began inside a room in this two-storey wooden apartment complex. Empress Williams was a tenant at the apartment. She was sitting in the yard when she noticed smoke coming from one of the rooms.


Voice of: Empress Williams, Fire Victim

“I mih the sit down outside and I smell the smoke. I see the smoke but I say dah mussy plastic the bnurn. So, I nuh the pay it no mind but when I smell it get more intense I said, plastic cant the burn deh yah time because a school deh right cross the street. So, I hail a young lady and seh miss you light any fire? She said no, so I told her I the smell fire and ih the come from the back. Me and this young lady run get up and gone check. By the time we reach deh I said, oh ah room deh pan fire. I tell she a room deh pan fire.”


The fire quickly spread from that room and within minutes the entire building was engulfed in flames. Saint Joseph School is located directly across from where the fire was taking place.  The school immediately sprung into action to safeguard the wellbeing of over eight hundred students and staff members. Everyone was evacuated from the school compound which was being affected by a thick cloud of smoke. Classes were called off for the day. On the other side of the street, Williams was trying to secure her personal belongings and save the life of an elderly man who lived on the second floor.


Voice of Empress Williams

“I seh the old man upstairs, so I gone hail he. Mr. Martinez, Mr. Martinez the house deh pan fire come out. By the time I said come out I run downstairs and tek out what I could have saved for myself. Put deh pan the side walk and deh still burn becausethe police never want mek we move deh off the sidewalk, none at all. I tell somebody else, the old man the up deh, unu could bring ah down because ih can’t walk, ih need people fih help ah walk. So, I tell dehunu could bring he down mek I save my things deh and deh say ok sure, no problem.”


When we arrived on Simon Lamb Street at around eleven thirty a.m. a throng of onlookers had gathered in the area. The fire truck that was on site ran out of water and had to leave to refill. For about fifteen minutes firefighters could not do anything without a fire truck present. They simply watched as the fire grew even larger. We met another resident standing at a safe distance with his children looking on as the inferno drew closer and closer to their two storey concrete home.



Resident, Simon Lamb Street

“Dah just eena my spot I deh and I see the lotta smoke and dah fihsehI mihwah know if dah my marijuana the get outta hand. But, when I come out now I see the *beep* the whole place, I see the whole place under smoke. I call the man deh and dah suh I mek it out with mihpiknideh, better life. Right now ih look like the second house the ketch with the four vehicles in the yard, because dah just boom we the hear. Ih look like the battery and the things deh the blow up.”


The second home that caught fire is situated directly next to the apartment building where the fire began. The owner experienced water and fire damages to his home. But, perhaps his greatest loss is the destruction of three vehicles, including a box truck he used to conduct his business. These burning vehicles, along with the butane tanks inside each apartment were the source of constant explosion heard by onlookers.



Lino, Simon Lamb Street Resident

“I nuh got no lotta reaction because I dah wah calm. All I do dah tek out mih pickni deh and I come out yah pan the side and watch the flames, check. We cant do nothing like that.”


Paul Lopez

“But you are watching your house right now, what are you thinking?”

“Well if the house guh dah just that. I can’t do nothing bout nature. But, at the same time to I the pray fih mek that nuh ketch.”


About twenty five minutes after the fire began, it had already destroyed two homes and its tentacles of destruction had reached the roof of a concrete structure on the adjacent street. Firefighters and police officers on the ground quickly dispatched to Nurse Seay Street in response.


Belize City Resident

Belize City Resident

“I watched three houses get burnt and the police just stop and watch the house get burnt. Well, this is the third house that is catching fire right now, this is the third house.”


The third home was saved from complete destruction due to the efforts of fire and police personnel. In his attempt to save the third house, one firefighter went into the smoking rooms with a t-shirt wrapped around his face. He was soon overwhelmed by the thick smoke. When the smoke had settled we returned several hours later and spoke with Desiree Gordon. She told us that she has been a tenant at the apartment building for the past seven months. She says she lost all her belongings to the fire and is at a complete loss as to where she and her children will go from here.


Desiree Gordon

Desiree Gordon, Fire Victim

“I mih have my entire household things in the downstairs. Dah mih rooms, so I had three rooms. One ah my daughter lived in and I mih have two. I lived in one. The place mih to small and I am a second mother of seven and I don’t have all my kids because of being here. The other rooms I had my sofa and stuff I had put up. My daughter, I don’t have a phone at the time, but my daughter number is 6012027.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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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