Belize City, Tues. Oct. 5, 2021– Two major fires occurred in the Belize District over the weekend. One blaze destroyed several homes on Albert Street, while the other razed the Tu’Kan Foam Factory, which is located at Mile 13 on the George Price Highway.
The fire on the highway, which caused millions of dollars in losses at the Tu’Kan Foam Factory, occurred on Saturday morning. A building housing the factory, which is reportedly owned by Dhiraj Nandwani, burst into flames which quickly spread to another building in the compound. Reportedly, two employees were at the factory at the time of the incident when one of the industrial machines supposedly overheated and burst into flames.
Firefighters later arrived at the scene and attempted to extinguish the fire, but the blaze became uncontrollable and caused extensive damage to two of the facility’s concrete buildings. The incredible intensity of the fire reportedly caused the buildings to cave inward and even resulted in the collapse of the roofs of one of those buildings. Fortunately, no one was injured. The Fire Department is presently involved in an ongoing investigation to determine if the fire indeed was the result of equipment failure or was an act of arson. Their conclusions will determine whether the Police Department will conduct a further investigation.
The second fire, which occurred on Monday morning on Albert Street, displaced 16 persons belonging to five separate families. The fire reportedly originated in Clara’s Kitchen, a home-based food vendor on 127 Albert Street. The authorities are suggesting that the fire started long before the victims reported the incident. This allowed the fire to gain momentum — causing extensive damage to the two buildings before the firefighters could extinguish the fire.
The Belize Fire Department has indicated that the fire was likely caused by a fault in the wiring of the building in question, which is over a hundred years old. According to National Fire Service station supervisor Kenneth Mortis, electrical components in houses deteriorate; as a result, they need to be rewired occasionally.
Some of the victims of the fire had complained about the delayed arrival of the firefighters, but Mortis explained that oftentimes people call 911 for fire-related incidents; however, the hotline for the National Fire Service is 900. He said that a delay results when the wrong department is contacted for assistance. According to the Fire Department, as soon as the report of the fire was received, firefighters headed to the scene of the fire, and four minutes after their departure from their facility near Marion Jones Sports Complex, they had arrived. In response to other complaints that the firefighters did not have a sufficient supply of water, Mortis explained that their two trucks together can only store a total of 1,400 gallons of water, and when this supply has been depleted, the department must seek an alternative water source to supplement its supply. He explained that battling a fire as extensive as the blaze on Albert Street depletes the water supply of the fire trucks in three to four minutes.
Another complaint concerned the order in which the department chose to extinguish the fire. Bystanders claimed that one of the houses could have been salvaged if the department had directed their efforts to the fire that was smaller in size. Still, as explained by Morris, the department is guided by strategic firefighting principles. This stipulates that the department must contain the primary fire before proceeding to nearby structures.
Mortis went on to state, “My final advice to anyone out there who wants to make that investment in securing what they work so hard to accomplish is to purchase a smoke alarm, purchase a domestic fire extinguisher. They are relatively cheap, and in the long run, it’s going to help you protect your property in the event that there’s a fire.”