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Nov 24, 2009

Fire in Caye Caulker causes over $700,000 in damages

Story PictureA fire in Caye Caulker that started at about two o’clock this morning lasted for two hours and by the time it was contained, over seven hundred thousand dollars in damages were caused to three properties. But the issue stirring much anger on the island today was the alleged negligent response of the Fire Department. News Five’s Delahnie Bain headed out to the Caye where the fire had been extinguished but the heated frustration among the residents raged on.

Delahnie Bain, Reporting
At least four buildings were reduced to mere rubble after an early morning blaze in Caye Caulker. The losses tallied up to over seven hundred and thirty thousand dollars and none of the destroyed structures were insured. The fire started in a cabin at the Ocean Pearl Royale Hotel and spread to Costa Maya Cabanas where a warehouse as well two buildings that housed four apartments were destroyed.

Rudy Rosado, Sister, Owner of Costa Maya Cabanas
“We responded immediately when our neighbors shouted for us. When we came here the buildings were already engulfed in flames. An hour after, the fire department responded and they tried to get the pump started and the pump didn’t start. There was no gasoline I understand and we got no help from the department.”

Delahnie Bain
“Have you put a value to amount of damage caused to your property?”

Julian Rosado, Manager, Costa Maya Cabañas
“I would say about three hundred and fifty to four hundred thousand Belize. When they wake me up the first thing I did was grab a fire extinguisher because I thought it was my building that had started to burn. But when I got here it wasn’t my building that was on fire it was the neighbor behind me house was on fire. I think that if the fire department was working properly it could have stopped this from happening.”

Efrain Novelo, Owner, Ocean Pearl Royale Hotel
“I think they were inside the house because at about twelve-thirty, minutes to one they came down and said there was a fire. He had already used the fire extinguisher. Then I came down but was a little bit too late so we just started to use buckets and eventually a local came with a pump and that helped.”

Delahnie Bain
“Do you know how it started?”

Efrain Novelo
“No I don’t.”

Haywood Curry also suffered a major a loss because his house was also destroyed. But for Curry, the ashes on the ground were not just the remnants of a three hundred and twenty thousand dollar investment, it was the newly constructed and furnished home that he would was about to move into.

Haywood Curry, Fire Victim
“Once the fire truck got here my house still wasn’t on fire and they had the pump in the water but they couldn’t start it. So we kept waiting and waiting and finally it caught and they didn’t have any chance to—they still couldn’t get it started. All I know is that it definitely would not have gone up if the pump would have worked because my house wasn’t on fire when they first got here. So I’m not criticizing anybody I just know that we need some real equipment here.”

While they were disappointed at the costly damages, the fire victims were even more upset about the Fire Department’s response. The residents say they had to out the fire themselves and they made some serious allegations against the firefighters.

Rudy Rosado
“I am pissed off; really pissed because of the negligence of the Fire Department. If they would have responded immediately, at least they could have used their initiative and tried to do something before the house was engulfed in flames and there was nil response, nothing, not even an ounce of water came out of the pump.”

Porfilio Guzman, Helped Out Fire
“Here in Caye Caulker our Fire Department is very slack, slack, slack. They use the fire department vehicle as for their own for taxis and they are always under the influence of liquor. All what we do out here is we get the manpower from almost all the villagers and even the foreigners they came with buckets of water from the east of the sea to the west of the island. We had lines of buckets throwing water and water and what happened we have a gentleman and I think he is a hero; they call him Dosey. He had what you call a water pump and what he did is use the hose from the Fire Department. I think he had to cut a nozzle to connect to his pump and that’s what saved us.”

Training Officer for the National Fire Service, Kenneth Mortis, met the media this afternoon to address the allegations, starting with the claim that the truck showed up about an hour after they were called.

Kenneth Mortis, Training Officer, National Fire Service
“Lucky for us we went back and our caller ID showed that the call was made at two twenty-three, a second call was made at two-twenty-six. Shortly thereafter the fire personnel responded to the location of the fire.”

Jorge Aldana, San Pedro Sun
“I understand that when they responded they were drunk. Will you be able to comment on that?”

Kenneth Mortis
“Allegations, allegations. As a professional department or an organization we need to realize that we are here to serve the people. We are employed on a twenty-four hour basis; we have no room to be drunk. I will not go back and forth and say who was right and who’s wrong but as far as I can verify, my people were not drunk in any way, form or fashion. The pumps were working. We brought our mechanics to verify such. What happened the pumps started working but the fire was under inclement weather. The rain contributed to the pump being malfunction. What happened it received damages to its electrical components.”

Mortis says the department will investigate the allegations. Delahnie Bain for News Five.

About ten persons were staying in the rooms that were destroyed at Costa Maya Cabanas and they have been moved to another hotel.

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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