BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 7, 2017–Sometime after 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 6, a fire engulfed a small structure at # 23 Santa Barbara Street, and by the time the blaze was extinguished by firefighters from the National Fire Service, four houses were destroyed and a 20-month-old toddler, Tarique Roberts, was taken to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:55 p.m.
In a telephone interview this afternoon, Fire Chief Ted Smith told Amandala that the cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
The Santa Barbara Street fire left 13 persons homeless
We asked Smith if it was true that when the fire tender arrived to put out the fire, it did not have enough water, and the fire blazed out of control, consuming the house in which the toddler was.
Smith said that the first fire tender that arrived on the scene had a capacity of 700 gallons of water, and it could use that amount of water in about 3 minutes. Smith also said that other houses were already on fire when his men arrived to put out the blaze.
According to Smith, the Fire Department was told by the Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) that some of the houses did not have a meter, suggesting that some of the residents were receiving power that was not provided by BEL.
“The BEL grid has shown that four years ago, the back house in the yard had a meter, but there was no meter presently,” Smith told Amandala
Late this evening, police issued a report on the fire. The report said CIB personnel saw “two wooden structure houses and a two-storey concrete downstairs with wooden upstairs, completely engulfed in flames.”
Shanica Roberts, 20, Tarique’s mother, was not at home when the fire started. Roberts told police that when she left the house, Tarique was asleep, and that she was gone for only about 5 minutes, and when she returned, she saw fire coming from inside her door.
“She stated that she tried to enter the room where her child was, but the fire was already out of control and therefore, the child perished in the flames,” the police report said.
Fire Chief Smith confirmed that the fire started in Roberts’ house and then spread to the other structures in the yard.
A total of 13 persons were made homeless as a consequence of the fire. The affected persons spent the night at St. Martin De Porres Primary School, and in the daylight hours, they were provided with breakfast, blankets and mattresses by members of the Belize City Council.
Councilor Dion Leslie told Amandala that four families were affected by the fire. As to the cause of the fire, he said that that had to be determined by the Fire Department.
“We got donations from Bowen and Bowen in terms of water and we also got some assistance from Diaspora people who donated some pots and pans and basic housewares. We can’t give them everything, but at least right now, we are able to provide them with the basics,” Councilor Leslie said.
Rothilda Sho, 23, one of the residents of 23 Santa Barbara Street, said she was already asleep when the fire began, and her husband woke her.
“The first fire truck that came did not have any water,” Sho, said, in contradiction of what Fire Chief Smith had asserted.
Another resident of the yard, Abelina Cal, 19, said she was travelling on the bus coming to Belize City when her common-law husband called her, but she could not hear what he was saying, so he sent her a text message telling her that their house was on fire.