A BLANKET of smoke layered the Charlotte and Camp Streets, Lacytown area on Tuesday evening as members of the Guyana Fire Service and Police Force quickly averted what could have been a devastating fire.
A wooden tenement building, clustered by other buildings used for business and residential purposes, was reportedly set ablaze by a suspected arsonist who reportedly fled the scene while laughing on a motorbike with a female as the pillion rider.
The arson suspect, who was last seen minutes before the first fire alarm was raised by neighbours, is known to the other occupants of the wooden, tenement property located at 172 Charlotte Street, Lacytown.
The Guyana Chronicle was informed that the suspect and his girlfriend had emptied their belongings from the property and left at around 21:10 hrs before the fire started to spread.
A bystander, who lived in the vicinity, said he was at his job site nearby when he heard there was a fire at his home. The bystander, who attempted to console a grieving survivor of the fire, said he rushed back to Charlotte Street.
“When I hear there was a fire by my house, I fly with a speed!” the bystander said, adding: “But when I reached, I hear it’s not my house. It’s next door to my house.” “She have a house at the back,” he said while pointing to a very distraught 30-year-old Ashawna Moffatt.
Moffatt, who resided at the fire-ravaged premises, along with other persons who were believed to be resting at the time of the blaze, narrowly escaped. The building was divided into four apartments and there were no reported injuries or deaths.
Turning her attention to the alleged arsonist, a breathless Ashawna said, “he and he girl come and pack up all he things, and when I see he jump on de bike and pack up all he things, and by the time they reach de corner laughing, a man come in and holler, ‘Shawna! Fire inside by you!’”
“And I run and left me shop open! And when I run, I realise that me ain’t get me key, and by the time I come back, I hear de gas stove and de gas bottle blow up and I run! And me ain’t go in back,” Ashawna said as she explained how she barely escaped being caught in the blaze.
The woman said she operates a business stationed on Charlotte Street next to the passageway that leads into the tenement where the fire was started.
When asked if she ever had issues with the person she identified as the arsonist, the fire survivor confirmed that there was an issue but could not at the moment divulged any information.
She did confirm, however, that the suspect was living at the premises for two months. “There’s so much ah things going on right now,” she said as she continued crying profusely while panting for breath.
Speaking with a fire investigator, the woman repeated the details of the ordeal and went as far as to name the two persons believed to be linked to the fire.
FAKE FIRE CALLS
Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn, who was at the scene of the fire closely observing the operation, said that from all indications, the fire appeared to be arson in nature.
When asked about confidence in fire preparedness for buildings around the City, Minister Benn said he is not happy about it. “We have been handing out smoke detectors in Tiger Bay, we have been repeating the need to take measures to ensure that people are doing the right things to make sure they are not affected by a fire.”
A rank of the Guyana Fire Service then interrupted the interview to provide a verbal situation report to the Home Affairs Minister. According to the rank, the fire was contained as it was being tackled from two points.
Continuing the interview, Minister Benn said it is difficult to predict how many assets are needed for fires when reports are made, especially with prank calls being made to the Guyana Fire Service. “We keep getting fake calls so we just have to keep on it and we just have to encourage people to avoid bringing disputes that result in arson.”
“We have got to tell people that everybody has a tremendous risk when a fire is started,” Minister Benn continued, “whether deliberately, inadvertently, or as a result of a failure of some system or the other”.