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Jun 19, 2023

Fire Guts Only Shingled Building in the City, Police say it’s Arson

In the wee small hours of Saturday a fire erupted inside one of the oldest structures on Regent Street in Belize City. Once the home of the Eusey family, the building, at the corner of South and Regent Streets, was an old shingled structure set to be demolished. The fire spread quickly, consuming the building and, was it not for the work of the National Fire Service, the adjacent structure that is the headquarters of the Salvation Army would have been gutted as well. All that is left of the Eusey property is charred rubble and the folks over at Salvation Army cleaning up. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Some say that the house predated 1880 and has been the home of the Eusey family for decades; the Euseys were public servants. The iconic building, located at the corner of South and Regent Streets, was the only structure in Belize that had shingled walls as part of its architecture. Area Representative Tracy Panton says that part of our historical reference and cultural identity has been lost.


Tracy Panton

Tracy Panton, Area Representative, Albert Division

“It was I believe the oldest standing building in Belize City. It was in the neighbourhood I grew up in. I have a lot of fond memories at that building; we knew the Eusey family very well. In 2012-2013, we had accessed a grant facility from the International Cooperation Development Fund of the Republic of China Taiwan to put in place a framework to preserve our older buildings. And in fact, that building was chosen as the signature project of that loan grant, however, at the time the family made a determination that they did not want to participate in the project. And so we were not able to restore it to its original state. The idea was that part of the building would have been used as a museum that visitors could visit and then the upper part of the house would have been renovated for the family to live there and portion of the proceeds would have gone to the family. But the family at that time opted not to. And then I had heard that the property had been sold and it was my understanding that the Belize City Council was going to be dismantling the structure. I had seen recently, just before I left the country, some attempts at dismantling the roof of the building – the zincs were removed, the framing for the roof was removed, etc. But of course, this unfortunate incident occurred.”


While there was quick response by the National Fire Service, the fire spread to the adjacent building, the headquarters of the Salvation Army. Major Jonathan Kellman says that he initially felt that it was a prank call.


Jonathan Kellman

Major Jonathan Kellman, Commander, Salvation Army

“I thought it was a prank call cause sometimes the staff member call me by mistake. So I got the call at one-thirty in the morning; I left here at twelve-thirty. For some reason I came up here; I was looking for something and spent some time and I left at twelve-thirty. And then I got the call at one-thirty and I was getting to bed and then I text back and said I hope you are calling me by mistake. And then fifteen minutes later, another person called – because two people lived here, and they said the building is on fire. And so I rushed up here and in about five minutes I was here. It was not something that we were looking forward to. It kinda put people on Albert Street and Regent Street in some distress for the rest of the night because they didn’t have power. First of all I want to thank God because there was no loss of life – on that property or on ours because we have people living here, pastors living here. Because the building kinda porous, the building caught on fire on that side, so the firefighters had to break in upstairs and try to contain the fire. Therefore, we have water damage downstairs in the office areas on this side; files and so forth so we are trying to clean up now and deal with that. Upstairs, we can’t use up there now because they break up panels, wires, everything up there kinda affected, the bathroom is gutted because the fire was on that side. So roofing, everything there has to be replaced. We only have electricity in this part of the compound. But we are still here; we wanted to be open today to serve the public. We don’t have utilities or anything like that, but we are open.”


Kellman says that the saddest part of the incident is that in the wake of the fire, someone looted the apartment and stole a bag containing personal documents, including the passport of Major Elaine Wedderburn, the Finance Secretary of the Salvation Army. Police believe that the fire was deliberately set.


Hilberto Romero

ACP Hilberto Romero, Regional Commander, Eastern Division

“Information is that a male person was seen entering the building and thereafter a fire was seen coming from the building. We are seeking one suspect in regards to this report. The building is an abandoned building that is on Regent Street.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

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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