On Tuesday, July 8, a two-flat wooden house, the property of Eloise Hyde in Hattieville, was completely destroyed by fire at about 9:00 that morning, leaving 13 people homeless. The fire service said that a child playing with a lighter caused the fire.
Then, on Friday night, July 18, at about 9:00, a building on Prince Street in Belize City was destroyed by a fire which, again, was reportedly caused by a child playing with a cigarette lighter. The incident left eight people homeless.
Orin Smith, Operations Officer at the National Fire Service in Belize City, announced that their investigation into the fire revealed that it began in the bedroom on the upper flat of the house. A child, playing with a lighter, caused a mattress to catch fire, they said.
Smith said that they confined the fire to the upper flat and saturated the surrounding buildings with water. As a result, the surrounding buildings escaped damages, and only the upper flat of the house was completely destroyed.
After the fire was out, they began their investigation into the cause of the fire, and found that the fire was started by a child playing with a lighter.
The upper flat was occupied by Shaday Arnold, her boyfriend and her four children, and Darren Andrews and his sister were residing in the lower flat.
The family in the upper flat lost everything. Andrews, who was at home at the time, managed to save a few items, but the majority of their belongings were destroyed, including about $10,000 worth of electronics, including computers, video games and televisions.
Andrews said that he is an electronics repairman. He told Amandala that he was at home when he saw smoke and felt heat coming into his house from the upper flat, and when he rushed upstairs to see what was happening; he saw that the upper flat was burning.
Andrews quickly helped his friend, who was upstairs at the time, evacuate the four children, after which he went upstairs again and began to battle the fire, but it had spread out of control.
Andrews then ran downstairs to his flat and began to grab some of the items in his apartment, and at the same time, called the fire service.
But when he went into the now smoke-filled flat, he twisted his ankle and fell, hurting his shoulders. Andrews said that the fire service came rather quickly, within five minutes, and they began to battle the fire, confining it to the upper flat of the wooden building, which was by that point engulfed in flames.
The lower flat, however, was rendered unlivable as a result of damage caused by heat and water.
Andrews said that he has nowhere to go and needs somewhere to rest. The belongings he managed to salvage have been secured in a building in the yard, but he cannot sleep there.
Arnold and her family lost everything and are asking for public assistance in obtaining food, clothing and other necessities.
Darren Andrews and his sister can be contacted at 661-1929, or at their home on Prince Street.
Orin Smith calls on parents and guardians to ensure that children do not play with lighters or matches, which could cause fires.