The fire started at approximately 3:30 am yesterday when Household Plus erupted in flames before spreading west to the neighbouring buildings which housed Chino Variety Store, Fullworths General Store and Wireless Connections. Another small store named Super Jet was also affected by the fire this newspaper was told. The stretch of buildings is located on the southern side of Regent Street between Cummings Street and Orange Walk.
The origin of yesterday’s fire is unclear but a senior fire officer told this newspaper that the blaze is seen “as a bit suspicious” and that “nothing will be ruled out.” There was no report of a power outage at the time of the fire.
Two Fridays ago, a fire which started at Household Electronics, also on Regent Street, completely destroyed three buildings and badly damaged the top flat of another. Initial reports suggest that that fire was electrical in origin. Household Electronics is owned by Shaheed Hamid, whose brother owns Household Plus.
Hamid and other family members were at the scene yesterday morning. The owner of the store, however, was not there at the time. Hamid, when approached, said he did not know much about the fire or about the value of the property lost. When the issue of the fire being “suspicious” was raised, he responded that people could believe and say what they want to and he could not stop them from doing this. He said the insurance company would have to do their investigations. Another relative added that he did not believe the fire was an act of arson.
Fire-fighters battled for hours to control the mighty inferno even as a sizeable crowd gathered to watch. Although fire-fighters reportedly arrived promptly, their initial efforts were hampered by the lack of water. The flames, which were fanned by the early morning winds, raged for over three hours before the fire-fighters were able to bring the blaze under control. The efforts by the fire-fighters were not aided by the multiple leaks in the hoses which led to a significant wastage of water.
In the battle to control the blaze, two fire-fighters were injured and had to be taken to the hospital. One was hit in the eyes by flying debris and the other sustained an electric shock. The latter was reportedly shocked when some of the firemen were busy trying to open the generator room at the back of the lower flat of the Wireless Connections Store.
Fire Chief Marlon Gentle, who was on the scene, said he was pleased with the efforts of the service. He said that the Fire Service was notified about the inferno at about 3:45 am and responded promptly and did the best they could in the circumstances. He said when firefighters arrived on the scene, the Household Plus building was fully engulfed. Immediately efforts were concentrated on containing the fire, the Fire Chief said.
Gentle said that the 4000 gallons of water with which the tenders arrived was not sufficient and subsequently water was sourced from the canals on South Road and North Road. However, about 45 minutes to an hour later, the North Road canal became so silted up; it could not be used, Gentle said.
There were other issues that hampered fire-fighting efforts and these included traffic and the frenzied effort by owners to evacuate their goods- thereby cluttering the area with vehicles, the Fire Chief explained. He pointed out that apart from being the sales outlets, the buildings also served as storage bonds and the “fuel load… was tremendous”. The high security features in the buildings posed challenges in terms of firefighters breaking into the buildings to fight the flames. The early morning winds also fanned the flames the Fire Chief said and added that there were a number of explosions within the buildings.
Suspicions have been raised about the possible causes of recent fires and Gentle said the possible cause of this one is “open” and some issues have to be made clear before there is a pronouncement. He said that investigations are ongoing into the other fire. Read more..