BELIZE CITY, Mon. Mar. 27, 2017–Residents of well-known Majestic Alley frantically emptied their homes on Friday evening as a raging fire began to consume a number of buildings in close proximity.
The fire belched out a thick black smoke overhead which warned citizens, even from a distance, that all was not well on Belize City’s north side.
At around 4 p.m., the fire began at the Youngs’ residence near the alley’s basketball court, but within an hour, it consumed an entire long barracks, as well as several adjoining structures.
In the end, 18 families or 51 persons would be left homeless, according to fire officials, who have yet to determine the cause of the inferno which forced fire victims to spend the weekend at a nearby designated hurricane shelter, St. Mary’s.
However, with the efforts of their area representative, former Prime Minister Hon. Said Musa, many fire victims have relocated to a spacious property on Handyside Street, where they will be allowed to stay in the meantime.
Blind fire victim, Daisy Neal, told us that since 1984, she had lived at the barracks and does not want to live anywhere else.
According to her, she was home alone at the time of the fire and only realized that there was a fire when someone yelled out that her neighbor’s home was burning down.
According to the elderly Neal, she quickly left her home and made her way down her verandah. She claimed if she had not left when she did, she would have been burnt alive.
Her neighbors were the Youngs, who lived at one end of the alley since 1963 when the matriarch and patriarch of their family sold food to make their dream home a reality.
Julia Young confirmed that the fire started at her family’s uninsured 54-year-old home. Young told us that she does not know how the fire started, but confirmed that she, too, will rebuild.
“This is our family heirloom. This is where we were born. This is where we grew up. We ain’t got nowhere else to go. We will stay here and build up with or without help,” she told us.
She added, “We lived in this neighborhood before these apartment buildings were ever put up. We lived in Majestic Alley when they used to call it Shanti Town because there were just lotta little houses. They even used to call it The Puzzle, because when the police used to chase people, they don’t know where you disappear to.”
Her brother, legendary poet Leroy “Grandmaster” Young, who too is a victim of the fire, told us, “I nuh really concerned bout me, you know? Yes, I lost my family home and everything, but I am concerned more about the elderly people who were really affected. It doesn’t take me long to bounce back. I know what da destitution because I was homeless when I mi di kick up dust back inna mi days. I just hope that the people with the resources and the power pull up and assist dem people and try give dem somewhere decent to live.”
According to his niece, Rashida Faber, “My friends called me [at work] and told me they saw smoke and they thought it was my house. So they told me they would come to see if it’s my house. They called me back and said it was my house.”
Upon learning that it was her house, Faber ran from her place of work to home and could only stand and watch as the two-storey building went up in flames. According to Faber, the fire truck came, but did not have any water.
Former football sensation Wayne “Bomb” Jones has also been displaced by the fire; he has lost his home of ten years.
“I left stranded with nothing on my back and nothing at all. I lose everything,” he said. He confirmed that he was staying at the property at Handyside Street.
Mark Alamilla is also staying at that property. However, he told us that he has to share room and does not have privacy, but he said he was still grateful for a roof over his head.
“I really need some help right now because mi house bun down and I nuh got nothing. I di beg fu wa lee lodging right now, things really hard out yah. Dah nuh only me get bun down, lotta people get bun down through Majestic Alley. Lotta we homeless right now and we need support,” he cried.
In an exclusive interview with former Prime Minister Musa, he told our newspaper that this was the third fire at the [two] barracks since he constructed them when he was first elected in 1979. The first fire occurred in 1987 at the other barracks, while the second fire occurred at this same barracks sometime around 2,000.
According to Musa, he is holding the “pro poor” government to task. He told us that he is seeking to meet with Prime Minister Dean Barrow this week to see how the government would be able to assist.
“The UDP Government is on record for saying that they are the party of the poor, so I call on them now. These are all poor people, all 51 of them, over 12 families. These are the wretched of the earth, poor people, very poor. They need all the help they can possible get. I don’t need any credit for anything that is done; I just want something to be done, something decent to be done for those people,” he said.
Musa said that he hopes that reconstruction can start within the next few months.
While the fire caused widespread damage, there were no fatalities reported. Fire victims who tried to salvage their possessions complained that many of their items had been stolen. However, the police have not made any official report on that matter.