-dozens of businesses, law offices destroyed
A MASSIVE blaze on Wednesday night has left the owners of the Sharon’s Mall and numerous entrepreneurs and lawyers in distress.
The four-storey building located at King and Charlotte Streets, Georgetown, was completely gutted by a fire suspected to be electrical in origin and has left in its wake, millions of dollars in damage. Smoke was first spotted around 17:00hrs but fire fighters who responded were unable to access the building for about two hours. Flames were spotted around 19:00 hours.
Guyana Chronicle understands that over 30 business owners occupied the building and very few were able to salvage valuables which included documents, appliances, clothing and equipment.
Aside from clothing stores, the mall housed offices of several lawyers, salons, toy stores and stationery businesses.
This publication understands that a staffer recalled smelling smoke around 11:00hrs on Wednesday but passed it off as a smell coming from somewhere outside of the building. By 17:00 hrs, the building was filled with smoke and persons who were still there were forced to hurriedly evacuate the building.
A call was placed to the Guyana Fire Service at 17:00hrs and several fire tenders were dispatched to the scene.
Up until 19:00hrs thick dark smoke was seen emanating from the building. Suddenly, the glass of several windows were shattered and flames were spotted. Within minutes the third and fourth floors were engulfed in flames.
Dawn Blackman who owned a stationery store in the building described the situation as “devastating”. She noted that her losses are estimated to be in excess of $5M. She recalled that when she arrived at the scene, she was able to save two printers. The majority of stationery items were destroyed, she said.
Blackman stated that the fire had grown “tremendously” since it was initially noticed, and had left everyone, including the firefighters, in shock.
“When I came, one of the firefighters was coming from the back and he mumbled something to an officer in khaki. The officer in khaki turned around and saw me with the second printer. By then I started to choke with the smoke …he ran up the stairs to the second flat and he ran down back because the smoke was so black. He ran down the stairs, so, for me, in my estimation, it’s worse now than when I came,” the businesswoman stated. Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn told the media at the scene that initial investigations indicated that it was difficult for the firefighters to properly access the fire as it was running through the ceiling vents and along the electrical wiring in the building.
“They may have thought they had it under control but the wiring of the building …the fire was moving along that through the floor and the drop ceilings so it was difficult to ascertain where the fire was exactly at the point that they would have arrived,” said Benn. When this newspaper made checks at 20:45 hours, the fire was still raging.
The Guyana Fire Service is yet to officially determine the cause of the fire. This newspaper understands that initial investigations have suggested that the fire was electrical in origin.