BELIZE CITY, Wed. Jan. 17, 2018– A massive fire that occurred at about 12:30 this morning on Glynn Street in Belize City, behind the Salvation Army Building, completely destroyed 3 buildings and left 28 people homeless. Luckily no one was injured in the inferno. Two of the destroyed houses were occupied by families, and one was an unoccupied, abandoned structure.
The fire reportedly began in the abandoned building. Residents say it is a hangout for crack addicts and some homeless persons, and they believe they are the ones who started the fire. The National Fire Service has begun an investigation into the blaze, but the cause of the fire has not yet been ascertained.
Police said that they were alerted about a fire at # 12 Glynn Street at about 12:45 this morning, whereupon they immediately called the National Fire Service and then set out to the area. When they arrived they saw an unpainted two-flat lumber house with zinc roofing, engulfed in flames. The fire quickly spread to an adjacent two-flat house that is rented by Justo Miranda, 42, a Honduran construction worker of #14 Glynn Street. From there the fire spread to another two-flat timber house with zinc roofing, belonging to Rutigo Villanueva, a 49-year-old Belizean construction worker of #16 Glynn Street.
Initial investigations reveal that Miranda was at home, sleeping, and he was awakened by the smell of smoke. He saw that an abandoned house at # 12 Glynn Street, a property belonging to Hipolito Bautista, deceased, was on fire.
Fredrick Usher Jr., a resident of the area whose family house was scorched, and suffered water damages, told us in an interview this afternoon that they were all at home, sleeping, when his mother heard a crackling sound and awoke them. He peered out to see what was happening and saw the abandoned house, which is next to theirs, burning. Usher Jr. said they scrambled and called 911, for the National Fire Service.
After that they alerted their neighborhood and people began scrambling out of their houses. He said that shortly after they called, the fire trucks arrived and the firemen began to battle the blaze. But the fire truck soon ran out of water. He said the wind began to blow the fire onto their house, so he, his brother, and others, took matters into their own hands. Usher Jr. said they broke their faucet (to speed the flow of water), formed a bucket brigade, and so were able to save their house which was about to go up in flames.
Usher said that their house furnishings, including mattresses, were destroyed by the actions which had to be carried out to out the fire, and they are seeking assistance to replace these items. Members of the public who are interested in helping him can contact him at 605-1109.
Residents of the area are displeased with the performance of the Fire Service. They say that the fire trucks ran out of water while the firemen were extinguishing the fire and this resulted in valuable time being wasted. They say that while the fire raged and destroyed their houses, the firemen were looking for water sources to refill the tanks on their two trucks.
Fire Chief, Ted Smith, said that the Fire Service got the alert late, at about 10 minutes before 1:00 in the morning, and they responded immediately with two trucks. On their arrival on Glynn Street, they saw two houses burning, one of which was in the free burning phase, fully engulfed in flames. The other house, located east of that house, had fire coming out of the attic area, on the upper floor.
The firemen went into operation and contained and extinguished the fires. At the conclusion of the exercise, three two-storey wooden structures were declared totally destroyed.
Smith said that on their arrival on the scene, the magnitude of the fire overwhelmed their capacity initially because they did not have enough water onboard their two trucks. He said their immediate action, was to protect the surrounding houses from the flames as much as possible.
During the exercise they exhausted the water in their trucks and had to go look for water sources to refill their tanks. Unfortunately, this took a while longer than expected.
Chief Smith said that after the trucks were refilled they returned to the scene, where they battled and contained the fire before it destroyed other buildings. He said that the firemen were successful in doing this, so houses which were close to the burning houses were saved. Smith said that those houses that were dilapidated burnt faster.
Sometime last year the Fire Service had called upon the government, requesting that the government acquire a water bowser, of 10,000-gallon capacity, for the department. Fire trucks carry only about 1,000 gallons in their tanks, and this is quickly exhausted in a big fire.
The exact cause of the fire remains unknown at this time, and the value of the buildings and properties also has not yet been ascertained. The houses were not insured.