Two popular establishments were gutted by fire in Caye Caulker; the National Fire Service has confirmed the cause of a fire in Buttonwood Bay on Thursday.
by Charles Gladden
CAYE CAULKER, Belize District, Mon. Nov. 13, 2023
On Friday, November 10, a fire broke out at the start of the business day that ravaged two well-known establishments in the heart of Caye Caulker Village.
Initial reports are indicating that the blaze began sometime after 8:00 a.m. It is believed that the devastating inferno began at Barrier Reef Sports Bar and Grill, and then expanded to La Cubana Restaurant and made its way first to a nearby two-story building and then to another one.
The source of the fire was confirmed by Kenneth Mortis, Station Supervisor of the National Fire Service, who told reporters that it was an electrical flaw that ignited the blaze.
“We determined it to be as a result of an electrical flaw. What happened is the wiring that sustained electricity to the food cooler was acting up, and apparently this was known to the owner of the establishment prior to,” he said.
A video that was posted on social media showed island residents forming a bucket brigade because the fire truck that was stationed on the island was unable to reach the location to extinguish the fire due to pathway obstructions. However, despite the best efforts of the residents, the buildings were destroyed.
“While we were fortunate enough that the civilians, though they might not be happy based on the outcome, but they played a crucial role in assisting the fire department with the bucket brigade. That, combined with our firefighting effort, managed to limit the disaster to structure,” Mortis mentioned.
“… Again, I cannot overemphasize the appreciation we have for those bucket brigaders; they played a crucial role; they made it possible for us to effectively downsize that damage. Like I said in the beginning, if you look at the proximity, it was a well put-together oiled-machine between the bucket brigade [and] the fire department, and this is where we actually had … had they just turned a blind eye to us, it would have been much more damage than what was done,” he added.
Complaints were raised on social media about the response time of the National Fire Service and the route they should have taken to get to their destination. A repeated complaint on social media was that the firetrucks were too large to maneuver across the island.
“When you look at where Caye Caulker Fire Station is at, versus where the fire is located, that was a mere five minutes. The traffic wasn’t a problem. The maneuvering of these trucks, which some people are saying the trucks are too big for the island, that never was a problem. We responded, we acquired water, we lifted water, we started firefighting, and that was when we faced a slight mechanical problem that was probably rendered after a couple of minutes,” Mortis noted.
Mortis said that La Cubana Restaurant was insured with RF&G Insurance; and that the contents of the building that were destroyed were worth approximately $770,000. Barrier Reef Sports Bar and Grill, on the other hand, was not insured; the estimated value of the loss has yet to be determined.
Also, as mentioned in our Friday edition of Amandala, Belargo Enterprise located on Park Avenue in the Buttonwood area of Belize City was engulfed in flames on Thursday afternoon. At the time of publication of that article, there was no concrete determination on the cause of the fire; however, when reporters met with Mortis yesterday afternoon, he confirmed that the fire originated from a faulty battery.
“The building is sustained with solar energy, so to speak, and it has a battery backup that suffices the building or that particular room with electricity. The fire has been determined as a result of a faulty battery backup system,” he said.
The building in which Belargo Enterprise is located was insured with RF&G; however, the contents inside weren’t, said Kenneth Mortis.