Fire ravages San Pedrito home

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 1            January 4, 2007

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Despite efforts to put out the fire, the home became engulfed in flames and was completely destroyed.

A lthough many consider San Pedro the “land of plenty” it is clear that lack of resources and personal were key problems in extinguishing a raging fire that reduced a home to ashes on Tuesday.

    Shortly after 4:00 p.m. on January second, residents of the San Pedrito Area were alarmed to discover smoke coming out from a house on stilts in the area. Instantly the fire department was called, however, the home, property of Eliseo Rivero, was completely burned to the ground. Fortunately no one was at home at the time of the incident nor was anyone injured.

    According to official reports, at 4:16 p.m. information was received at the San Pedro Police Department about a fire in the San Pedrito Area. The information was relayed to the San Pedro Fire Department who immediately dispatched personnel to the scene. Upon arrival at the scene, fire fighters discovered smoke exiting from the front side of the building.

    Immediately, using the water reserve on the truck, personnel began pumping water at the house in an effort to extinguish the blaze. Once the reserve was finished, fire fighters attempted to get more water from the lagoon. The road conditions thwarted those efforts once the truck got stuck in the mud.

    The back up truck was called and dispatched to the scene. With the reserve of water on the second vehicle, the blaze was once again being fought. However, once that water source was exhausted the only thing to aid in putting out the fire was a garden hose. With no water and heavy winds, the house was quickly consumed by the flames.

    In an interview with Officer-in-Charge Jerome Garcia, the fire department did all it could with the limited resources that it has. One of the biggest challenges the department faces is the lack of “man power” or volunteers to assist whenever there is a fire. “Yes, indeed we are short staffed and we need to work on that. We had only two firefighters at the scene for this one incident,” commented Garcia.

    The second issue is one that has come up multiple times, the need for fire hydrants “water heads” strategically placed around the island. These could be used as a main outlet to pump water. “We used both our trucks, but when the water was finished, we had to take the truck to an open water head, which was located by Selene’s bar. Unfortunately, the truck got stuck whilst crossing the muddy street and that deterred the truck from passing through to pump water. We had three portable pumps to get water from the sea, but the water was collected in very little pressure as seaweed and thick grass blocked the pipe entrance,” Garcia further explained. Continuing, “More hydrants should be placed, or at least have a water head which is an open source that goes directly to the sea or lagoon.”

    A third concern raised was that while fire fighters were attempting to extinguish the blaze, a large crowd was able to wander aimlessly around and sometimes through the fire scene. In response to this concern, Garcia stated that it is imperative that simulation exercises be held with the personnel from the various departments that are called when a fire occurs, including fire, police, traffic, water and electricity. “By establishing a proper protocol all departments will be able to effectively assist us in extinguishing the fire. We all have to work together and in sync,” he stated.

    Because of the lack of resources, a number of Ambergris Caye residents have begun to demand assistance from the Government of Belize to aid in this dilemma. By having more training, volunteers and proper equipment another incident such as this may not have to occur.

    The Rivero house was completely destroyed and the source and cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Although investigations continue, it is believed that it was caused by an electrical problem. The structure was insured for $125,000 by the Insurance Corporation of Belize (ICB).

    To become a volunteer fire fighter, kindly contact your local fire department at 226-2372.
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