Big fire in the Boca Del Río Area. Neighbors and firefighters are fighting the flames as they threaten to spread to other homes. No injuries have been reported. Fire has engulfed about four structures in the Boca Del Río area. Firefighters struggling with the large blaze.
Massive fire leaves many residents of the Boca del Rio Area homeless
A devastating fire in the Boca del Rio area north of San Pedro Town destroyed six houses early this morning, Saturday, August 4th. The fire reportedly started shortly after 1AM, no injuries have been reported, but many persons are now homeless as the blaze destroyed everything in its path. The fire threatened to spread to nearby houses, but thanks to the efforts from the San Pedro Fire Department and the many volunteers who battled the fire for hours, a larger tragedy was avoided. Residents, however, believe that is time for local and central government authorities to look seriously into this matter and provide the fire department on the island with the adequate resources and equipment to better address such emergencies.
An official report is yet to be issued by the National Fire Service, but a male eyewitness told The San Pedro Sun of how the fire started. The person mentioned that when he stepped out of his house, he noticed one wooden house on fire. The entire neighborhood was put on alert and neighbors made the first attempts to control the fire as they waited for the firefighters. The eyewitness said that because of the winds, the fire quickly gained strength and jumped to other nearby houses. As firefighters and residents joined forces, the fire began to intensify. As the firefighters pumped water from a lagoon, a resort brought their own water pump to assist the fire department in fighting the blaze. Despite their efforts, the flames reached over and between the wooden structures, creating an inferno of sparks and ash that rained over Boca del Rio and nearby San Juan.
Residents frantically formed a bucket brigade getting water from the lagoon to wet their properties and the already engulfed houses in an attempt to prevent the flames from reaching other homes. In the first hour, all attempts seemed futile as more houses became ablaze, while its occupants tried to save the little they could. “I was only able to get my cell phone,” said one of the victims. “I lost everything, even some savings.” The San Pedro Police Department and members from the National Emergency Management Organization were onsite monitoring and assisting in every way they could. Many of the victims who lost everything are sad, frustrated and some even furious. They wonder when the island will get a proper fire department and the necessary infrastructure so things can are done right. They believe that the recent fires are a wakeup call for the Government to act and a reminder that tragedies like this can be prevented if the required resources are properly allocated.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun
Island Blaze Leaves Over 80 Homeless Destroying 10 Structures
Tragedy strikes again for residents of the Boca del Rio Area, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye as a blaze destroyed around ten structures that included homes and apartment complexes. The incident has left approximately 80 people displaced from their homes. The fire occurred in the exact location where a previous blaze burnt down an apartment complex four years ago, this time, leaving the same families homeless again!
Due to the proximity of the homes to each other and high winds the fire spread quickly leaving ten structures completely destroyed and three partially damaged. Low water pressure from the town’s water supply also presented a problem in collecting water. Sadly not much could be done to save all the homes in the area; the fire stopped spreading where home were farther apart from each other.
The fire was brought under control about 4:26 a.m., by firefighters who were assisted by civilians who came to their aid with buckets and water hoses from nearby homes. Although there were many upset that police officers were removing people from the area, Superintendent Reymundo Reyes (new Officer in Charge of the Coastal Executive Unit - Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker) stated that this was done for the safely of everyone. He said they were protecting people from the high heat, fire and extreme smoke inhalation as the conditions in the area were extreme.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the Ambergris Today
Informing the community that the Lions Den is open to receive and collect any donations for help he fire victims.
Please pray for the families in Boca Del Rio that were involved in the fire. 75 people have been displaced. Donations of food, clothing and hygiene items are needed. Please drop off donations at Hope Haven - Belize. For those wishing to make a cash donation you may do so here https://www.paypal.me/LoveShareUS. Please put fire victims in the memo.
Our hearts go out to the families affected by the horrible blaze that consumed numerous homes at the Boca del Rio Area last night. Luckily there are no reports of deaths so far and unconfirmed reports indicate around 10 homes were destroyed.
Click photos for more pictures
Boca Del Rio Blaze
Ambergris was abuzz today with talk of the fire that displaced 75-84 people (exact number still to be determined) in the Boca Del Rio, San Juan area late last night. The fire broke out Just north-west of the Train Station Gym and behind Compadres bar on the lagoon side of town.
The community is springing into action fast, food, clothing, and hygiene donations are being accepted at Hope Haven Shelter (across from Maya Island Air). Colleen’s Kitchen at the shelter will be providing 3 meals a day for at least a week, along with fruits and snacks for the kids.
When I messaged Karen Brodie to get permission to use her devastating fire pictures, she also gave me a few details to share with you.
“The blaze started around 1:00 am. It seems like it was arson according to Manuel Heredia. A fight was going on in the house where the fire started according to neighbors. It was an incredibly hot fire, literally an inferno. Even when I first got there and wasn’t brave enough to get real close I could feel the heat from it and I was worried about explosions.”
Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in Tacogirl's Blog
This is ground zero in The Boca del Rio.... you may recall that in July of 2014, there was a massive fire on this same block.
Hon Edmond Castro & Hon Manuel Heredia on the Ground After San Pedro Fire
Minister of National Emergency Management (who also has responsibility for the National Fire Service). Hon Edmond Castro, was on the ground Saturday, August 4, in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye within hours after an early morning fire had destroyed 10 buildings, leaving more than 75 persons homeless.
After a brief meeting at the NEMO San Pedro Office with officials of NEMO, the National Fire Service, Police Department, San Pedro Town Council, Red Cross and other community volunteers, Hon Castro joined Belize Rural South Area Representative Hon Manuel Heredia on the ground where they inspected the damage and spoke with victims of the devastating blaze. All victims were already being provided with shelter (mainly at Hope Haven Children Shelter & Community Center), as well as food, water, clothing and hygiene kits.
Hon Castro and Hon Heredia further assured the fire victims that the Government of Belize, in partnership with humanitarian organizations, businesses, and the general community, will do whatever they can to help them rebuild their homes and lives.
Both the Lions Club and Hope Haven are accepting donations and are mostly in need of underwear, bedding and basic survival needs of pots, pans, plates, and cutlery so that families can start preparing their own meals as they find new homes.
Fire Chief Blames Congestion for Spread of Fire in San Pedro
The National Fire Service has come under fire in San Pedro, where 87 persons have allegedly been left homeless by a blaze which occurred on Saturday at around 1:10am. Many residents have claimed that inadequate response and inadequate equipment were what caused the fire to spread to as many as ten homes. But today Fire Chief Ted Smith stated that “whether we had arrived with five trucks and 20 men, it would be extremely difficult to contain the fire because the members of the (Fire) Department don’t have the opportunity to properly implement what we call the three-pronged attack within the area because of the close proximity.”
Despite the congestion in the area where the fire occurred, however, the reality is that the Fire Department is faced with lack of resources and old fire trucks that some people have described as “antiques.” Since 2016 there have been three major fires on the island and residents have consistently blamed antiquated and malfunctioning equipment for the way the firefighting strategy was applied in each case.
The fire was incendiary, meaning that someone started it, on the lower flat of a two-storey structure on Conch Shell Street in the Boca del Rio area. He added that the Fire Department was not made aware of it until the Police Department informed them at 1:36am on Saturday and that when they arrived at the scene, two structures were already engulfed in flames.
According to Smith, two fire trucks have already been sourced for use in San Pedro.
Tonight, 87 people from 10 families are homeless after another devastating fire on San Pedro. This one started early on Saturday morning around 1:30 am in the Boca Del Rio area. When the firefight was finally finished 3 hours later, 10 structures had been affected; fortunately no one was hurt. But, that doesn't mean that there isn't pain - Daniel Ortiz found that in abundance when he went to San Pedro today:...
Daniel Ortiz reporting
Today, in the Boca Del Rio area, cleaning crews were already at work trying to clear away the substantial amount of debris left behind in yet another block burner that has devastated residents of San Pedro.
Walking around the area of destruction, there were mostly small wooden posts still standing. Their scorched surfaces told the tale of 7 homes which used to be here, but which were completely destroyed. 3 structures survived blaze, but for the most part, those homes were also gutted by the flames.
On Saturday morning, minutes after midnight, all 10 houses caught on fire at this location. The flames spread from their initial source - which is still to be determined - and minutes later, it became an inferno which consumed almost everything its path.
87 people are now homeless; their belongings were completely destroyed. Thankfully, though, everybody escaped the blaze unhurt.
But, there is still a lot of pain because these residents are now destitute, and some how, they must attempt to rebuild their lives from the ground up.
Amilcar Deras, one of the victims to this fire, invited us into what used to be his home, and an apartment complex he owned.
Reporter "This property what was it before the fire."
Amilcar Deras - Fire Victim "The property before the fire was half a million dollar the value."
Reporter "How many people did you rent your place to?"
Amilcar Deras - Fire Victim "15 apartment - 35-40 persons."
Deras tells us that he built the complex himself as a construction specialist. He estimates the value of his investment into this property at around 600 thousand dollars. In fact, less than 2 weeks ago, he was making improvements on it, like this verandah shelter, which looks practically new. It stuck out as unusual, one of the few parts of his house which the blaze didn't reach. That fire gave none of the 87 residents any warning when it struck:
Amilcar Deras - Fire Victim "The fire started about 5 minutes. A person came to wake me up and we found out that the fire started one house behind mine."
Reporter "Everybody's properties and all their possessions destroyed."
Amilcar Deras - Fire Victim "Everything in the 10 houses were destroyed."
He is cognizant that rebuilding his investment here may take months or years. But, for the Charles Bennett, the patriarch of his family of 19, the nightmare has restarted. 4 years ago, Bennett and his family lost their homes in a block fire at this same location, where 66 people ended up homeless. He and his family rebuilt, hoping that misfortune would not strike at the same place twice. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened on Saturday morning:
Charles Bennett - Fire Victim "I was sleeping and someone came and knocked on the door and then I came out. I didn't have a chance to take out anything. It just happened."
"Everyone was sleeping. I woke up everyone and took them out from the house. That's all I could have done for them."
Reporter "Was there a lot of panic taking place due to this?"
Charles Bennett - Fire Victim "Yes. A lot of people were trying to help to out the fire."
Bennett's son-in-law, Seferino Gilharry, was at work at that hour, and he had to rush home, only to find his family watching their home slowly burning down, along with the rest of his neighbors' houses.
Seferino Gilharry - Fire Victim "I was at my job. They called me that the house was burning down again. The first time we didn't get any help from anyone. This time we will see if we will get some help, at least with some plywood, 2x4, zinc."
Reporter "What's the first thing that comes to mind when you were told the house got burnt down a second time and we lose everything this time?"
Seferino Gilharry - Fire Victim "I feel sad again, because the first time everything got burnt down for me and we lose a lot of money. Everything got burnt."
Reporter "What have you been trying to do to keep yourself and to keep your family calm?"
Charles Bennett - Fire Victim "All I do is set everyone and make them happy and do what I can do for them."
And that's exactly what the other neighbors are doing, trying to slowly pick up the pieces of their lives lying among the ashes.
Reporter "Whats going to happen for you even to have a chance to build back this half a million dollar property?"
Amilcar Deras - Fire Victim "It will be difficult and hard because most of the houses were no insured and right now I will see how God will help us to start over. Right now I have to go deal with the back tomorrow and see what happens and we will see how we can start over."
As you heard in the story, this exact area of Boca Del Rio is the same one that saw a massive fire 4 years ago, on July 6, 2014. At that time 66 persons from 16 families were affected; this time it's 87 people from 10 families.
Also, there was another block fire in June of 2016, between Pescador Drive and Buccaneer Street in which 27 families - a total of 88 people - were affected, some losing their homes, and their business places. Another 6 buildings were partially damaged by that fire.
And, of course, less than two months ago, on June 11, four people perished in a fire out on the island town - which has seen more fires and fire disasters than Belize City - which has three times the population - in recent years.
NEMO Organizes Relief Response
And while that recent history is troubling, the present moment is even more so for these 87 San Pedro residents. They lost everything, but NEMO will help them out with a handful of supplies until they can start to re-build their lives. We met with Minister Edmond Castro and his NEMO team in Ladyville this morning as they loaded their trucks with a cargo bound for San Pedro.
Hon. Edmond Castro, NEMO Minister "I am sorry for the loss for those families affected on the island of San Pedro in the Boca Del Rio area. As NEMO responsibility, we were out there to assess the situation."
"NEMO has a standard basic package that we give to fire victims, some start-ups like mattresses. The number of persons will determine how many mattress you will receive, we will send food packs, we send a small table top stove, we send gas tanks, we send bedding and that kind of thing so we are sending for all 87 persons affected by that fire, yes 87 of them and many of them are renters so we are hoping that in the next couple of days some of them will find new places to rent and they will be able to get back on their feet and build their lives so until then we will continue to provide them with food packs and that kind of thing."
The supplies will be distributed among the affected families tomorrow morning on San Pedro. Most of the fire victims are staying at Hope Haven where they are receiving meals.
Arson Caused Block Burner
Now while NEMO was assessing the damage and connecting with the fire victims, the Fire Department was also doing ITS part in investigating the cause of the fire and it's arson! Today Fire Chief Ted Smith told us that two houses were already on fire when they arrived but there was only so much they could do to contain the fire, so it spread and damaged 10 structures:
Ted Smith, Fire Chief, Belize Nat'l Fire Service "The fire started on the lower flat of the southwestern portion of a two story structure on Conch Shell Street, Boca Del Rio, San Pedro."
"So far we have determined that the fire was an incendiary fire which means that the fire was lit by a person or persons who knew under the circumstances that the fire should not have been lit at the time."
"On our arrival, contrary to others belief, we found two structures on fire. The fire department went into operation to try and contain the fire. This area of Boca Del Rio is a very very congested area and it would have been difficult if we arrive with 5 trucks or 20 men, it would have been extremely difficult to contain the fire because the members of the department doesn't have opportunity to implement what we would have called 3-prong attack within the area because of the close proximity. A 3 prong attack includes attack in the seat of the fire, dealing with avenue of fire spread and dealing with exposure when it is tightly congested you have problems dealing with exposure."
"Investigation also revealed that the structure probably was on fire for sometime because during the interview out there some of the people who discovered the fire and gave a statement said they discovered the fire sometime before 1 that morning but somehow the information did not trickle down properly to the police of the fire department in a timely manner which can be as a result of a number of reasons overly excited, the priority was to get out the people."
In any fire, the fire department's lack of working equipment is always brought to light especially on the island, so Smith says that they are working on getting two new units for the town. Also, Smith encourages residents, especially those who are always willing to help in the case of a fire, to join the volunteer unit of the Fire Department for training so they can assist.
Another Massive Fire on San Pedro; 87 Persons Homeless
Friday night ended horribly in San Pedro where the weekend activities associated with the very popular Costa Maya were marred by tragedy. A fire ignited at a wooden house sweeping uncontrollably through an entire block of houses in the Boca Del Rio area. Shortfalls of the Fire Department impaired their delivery of fire fighting efforts. In a span of three hours, ten houses were burnt to the ground leaving more than eighty persons with nothing, but the clothes on their backs. The only silver lining is that there was no loss of life. A News Five team on the ground has detailed coverage of the wreckage. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.
Duane Moody, Reporting
Around one-thirty on Saturday morning, as the prime tourism island destination was still alive with the ongoing Costa Maya International Festival activities, tragedy hit the town when a massive fire broke in the Boca Del Rio area on the island. What started as a small fire, believed to have been deliberately set, at the ground floor of a two-storey wooden structure would within minutes develop into a full-fledged inferno that spread quickly to consume up to ten houses and apartment complexes within proximity. Eighty-seven persons including children have been left without a roof over their heads after the place they called home for years was gutted.
Ted Smith, Fire Chief
“We didn’t know when it started, we know when we got the call. We got the call from the police approximately one-thirty-six hours this morning and immediately responded to a structural fire in Boca Del Rio area. On arrival on the scene, according to the personnel that arrived, two structures were engulfed in flames—one was totally engulfed in flames and the other structure that located east, the western portion of the wall was engulfed in flames.”
Residents say that a fire truck carrying a portable pump and three personnel arrived within minutes to the scene of the fire. Contrary to Fire Chief Ted Smith, they say that only the house where the fire started was in the free burning stage when the national fire service personnel arrived on scene. The fire-fighters, however, could not contain the blaze, which wiped out an entire block.
Jorge Aldana, San Pedro Resident
“I personally went to the fire department; they were not picking up the calls that I personally was placing and so we went to look for the fire department. We came on time with the fire personnel. Contrary to what the fire chief is saying, there was only one structure on fire; this one in front of us. About five minutes after they came on scene, the other structure got engulfed in flames. And it took them thirty-two minutes to figure out how to work their machine in terms of their pump. They could have saved the structure that my sister and my brother-in-law lives in and the fire could not have been to that magnitude if they knew what they were doing.”
“The truck that arrived here arrived with three hundred gallons of water; it takes thirty gallons to fill each hose, there were three hoses used so one-third of the water was exhausted just to fill the hoses. They went into operation; there were three men on duty responding—two went into operation attacking the fire and the third tried to set up the portable pump. After the portable pump was put into place and went into operation, it did have some challenges because the officer in charge at the time used his wisdom and put a civilian to man the portable pump while three of them went into operation to out the fire. Somehow the choke was pulled for the portable pump and the portable pump eventually shut down.”
….that essentially caused the shutdown of the entire fire-fighting operation; a bucket brigade by residents kicked into action as the fire continued to spread, trapping residents into the dead-end street. Boaters had to be called in to evacuate over fifty residents from the blistering heat of the flames via the lagoon.
“Because this house got out of control, people got trapped on this side of the road and this is a dead end and so the fear was that the fire was just going to spread. And so what happened is that the breeze change and that was what helped the fire fighting. Thankfully, the breeze change and it didn’t spread that side, but we got things figured out and we had boats evacuating the children first on the dead end and then we get the adults and so forth in bots from volunteers.”
But what could have caused the fire? Residents say that a dispute between a landlady and her tenant may have led to a man setting the place on fire with the woman inside. Police were called out to the scene before statements were recorded to suggest that arson may have been at play. Superintendent Reymundo Reyes also says that the police responded to prevent any casualties.
Supt. Reymundo Reyes, O.C., San Pedro Police
“We are recording a statement from the owner of the building where it is alleged that the fire commenced. And based on her statement, then we will be looking for a suspect.”
“So it is suspected to be arson?”
Supt. Reymundo Reyes
“Based on what the lady is saying that she has been having problems with a tenant. We the police engaged in trying to move people from their premises. Some of them were still insisting that they want to run inside their house to try save some items and so forth, but I believe that as a police officer, life comes first and that’s why some of them had to be restrained from going into the building—one we have to look at the heat; two, smoke. They might say that I am far and so far, but the thickness of the smoke coming in could have suffocated them, dropped in the house and then that could have been a fatality.”
…but for Amilcar Veras and his thirty plus tenants, it wasn’t until an hour and a half later when the five apartments, eleven rooms and his house caught fire. That in their opinion was adequate time for them to have retrieved their belongings. Veras says that the property was uninsured. His worry, however, is for his tenants who have also lost everything.
Amilcar Veras, Fire Victim
“I had to run upstairs and downstairs and wake up everybody because everybody was sleeping. But everybody lose everything. So I am concerned about the people who lived here with me to lose everything. Last night the police don’t let the people work, because people want help, but they don’t let people work. So that’s why this house wasn’t to get burn last night, but the police make the house burn because they no let people help. They took me from inside my house and push me out.”
The fire was contained two and a half hours later, just after four a.m., but by then nothing could have been saved. Duane Moody for News Five.