Probe deepens into deadly Cummings Lodge blaze
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Police caution tape surrounding what is left of apartment complex as investigation into the deadly blaze continues (Elvin Croker photo)
Police caution tape surrounding what is left of apartment complex as investigation into the deadly blaze continues (Elvin Croker photo)

…suspect in custody, residents in shock

By Naomi Parris

RESIDENTS of Cummings Lodge, East Coast Demerara (ECD) are still in shock following a fire that claimed the lives of three persons – a 14-year-old boy and his parents.
On Sunday, the Guyana Chronicle revisited the scene of the fire where a cloud of sorrow was left as residents grappled with the sad reality. They had not only witnessed the fire but the removal of the charred remains of the family from the apartment building which was reduced to ashes on Saturday night.

Forty-six-year-old, Martin Lewis, his 40-year-old wife, Beverly Miller and their 14-year-old son, Dawall Ifill lost their lives after being trapped in the burning building.
One neighbour, who lives in an apartment behind the now charred building, told the Guyana Chronicle that she was returning home from work when she saw the blaze.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said that, while she was not very acquainted with the now deceased family, they appeared to be very humble.

Meanwhile, another neighbour, who lives in the same apartment building, said she was at home at the time of the fire. The woman said she was inside of her home at around 17:00hrs on Saturday when she heard residents shouting “Fire! Fire!” Upon looking through her window, the woman said she saw the fire and immediately panicked.
When contacted on Sunday afternoon, Fire Chief, Marlon Gentle told the Guyana Chronicle that the investigation into the origin of the fire was still ongoing.

Fire Chief, Marlon Gentle

On the evening of the fire, Gentle had told the Guyana Chronicle that the Guyana Fire Service responded to reports of a fire in Sixth Street Cummings, around 17:30hrs.
“Units from Campbellville and Alberttown responded and they found that a massive fire was in progress in an apartment building…they immediately went into fire-fighting action, but subsequently learnt that three persons could not be accounted for,” Gentle told this newspaper.

Reports indicated that the family was living in a heavily grilled apartment on the lower flat of the apartment complex, which is located next to the Cummings Lodge Secondary School. The fire started in an apartment on the upper flat of the complex. Sections of the media reported that firefighters found the bodies hugging each other, but Gentle could not confirm that, at the time of the interview.

Gentle also disclosed that one person, who is a tenant of the apartment complex, is in police custody. According to the Fire Chief, there are reports of threats issued to the owner of the complex and his/her representative by the tenant who is in custody. “There were some allegations about threats because of non-payment of rent…so it was some kind of confrontation between the tenant and the person who supposed to be the landlord or representative of the landlord,” the fire chief explained. He confirmed that further investigation was ongoing, but the issue was being treated as suspected arson. It was reported that close to 15 persons occupied the complex, and since the building was completely destroyed, all of them have been rendered homeless.

A NEW EPIDEMIC
There have been a number of fires in the past few weeks, and persons are starting to say this is a new “epidemic,” while remaining equally cautious because of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Considering the upsurge in fires across the country, Gentle said persons need to be conscious of their surroundings and practise basic fire safety drills. “Some of the recent fires are basically carelessness and some involve people setting fire to buildings, but we do not want to cause an alarm…we have been having a fair share of fires since this year started,” Gentle lamented.

Just recently, a pensioner, Dhanhiram Harcharan, lost his home when a two-storey Kingston building went up in flames. And, four persons were left homeless after a fire, suspected to be electrical in origin, gutted their home at Mocha Arcadia, East Bank Demerara, one week ago.

Early this month, a bodywork shop and at least one other building in Lusignan were completely destroyed by fire. In May, the former Morocco Hotel and another within the same compound at First Avenue at the town of Bartica were also destroyed by fire. Additionally, persons were left homeless after an early-morning fire ravaged their home at Lot B-2, Bent Street, Wortmanville, in April. As the numbers continue to climb, authorities will have to be watchful because the country recorded over 700 fires in 2019 alone.

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