5 houses destroyed in La Grange fire, 1 in custody
– businessman blames Fire Service for destruction
– arson suspected
By Lakhram Bhagirat
One person was arrested in connection with an early morning fire at La Grange, West Bank Demerara (WBD), which destroyed at least 5 houses and a business establishment in the wee hours of Tuesday.
The fire reportedly started at about 01:30h at the home of 57-year-old Rajwatie and 58-year-old Mahase Anantram at Lot 36 La Grange Public Road, WBD, and subsequently spread to the neighbouring business where it destroyed four other houses along with a bar owned and operated by Puroshotam Jewan called “Rambo”.
When Guyana Times visited the scene, Rajwatie was surrounded by relatives as she pondered her next move. The woman said that she has been living at the location for over 21 years with her husband. Together they operated a sewing business since she is a seamstress and he is a tailor by profession.
She related that just about 01:30h, a neighbour raised an alarm of a fire at the lower flat of their two-storey building. Both her husband and she ventured to the lower flat where they were confronted by a strange mat on fire at one of the posts.
“So, me try fuh open the door to see if the fire coming from the sewing room (but there wasn’t any.) Me husband come and he put out the fire. Me say bai this nah come from the sewing room, somebody got to throw fire because over there is a business place and when me mek so, I picked up something thinking is a sponge but was a mat on fire by the post. We put it out and we went back to bed,” she related.
About 15 minutes after they retired to bed, the couple heard loud shattering sounds and upon checking, more fire was discovered. This time the smoke was intense and they knew it was serious.
“So when me come out the room, he (my husband) said get clothes but me couldn’t get clothes and me go to the back room and knock the wall for the neighbour that alerted me and me say ‘Pammy fire.’ I don’t know if she called the fire reel but she did go because the fire reel isn’t far from here,” Rajwatie recounted.
When the couple made it out of the house, the building was fast engulfing in flames. They raised another alarm and by that time, neighbours had formed a bucket brigade while waiting for the fire tenders to arrive.
The woman told this publication that one man was arrested since he was the only person on the road at the time of the incident. He also called on neighbours to not render any assistance.
Rajwatie said that they lost everything in their home along with their livelihoods since all their sewing machines and clients’ clothing were destroyed. For now, the couple is focusing on getting back on their feet while hoping to be able to rebuild soon.
Fire Service’s negligence
Jewan said he is furious at the way the firefighters from the La Grange Fire Station operated. He is placing all the blame for the fire that destroyed his building at their feet.
He related that when an alarm was raised, his tenant immediately rushed to the Fire Station to make a report. When the firefighters arrived at the scene, Jewan’s building was not on fire. The fire at his neighbour’s house had just started. However, the events that unfolded afterwards led the businessman to blame the firefighters.
“They didn’t try to save my building because we didn’t have no fire. I was inside soaking it with fire extinguisher and so. They didn’t get a start (on the pump) and when they get a start there wasn’t no water…They caused my building to burn down.
“Then Leonora Fire Station come and back up and my son does work with Puran (Brothers) and he called Puran and Puran come but by the time all thing was done,” the upset businessman related.
He has been operating at that location all his life since the place once belonged to his mother.
Jewan said that he had four houses in the yard with a number of apartments and they were all destroyed. He could not gauge his losses since along with his business, his home was also destroyed.
“This building was 148ft in length. I had 2 sets of houses. There was a canter there with my whole music set… about $25 million gone down. I stocked this place up for mash today. Everything burn-up inside there. There are 4 houses in the yard and I have some apartment at the back. I worked my whole life here,” the 63-year-old devastated man stated.
The man operated a bar at the location. He also wholesaled beverages and did rentals for events – chairs, tables, sound systems etc. His business place was insured but he recently cancelled the insurance.