Guyana – ‘Terrible!’
House burns next to Fire Station because no fire engine driver was available
GEORGETOWN – In most countries, living next door to a fire station is a comforting thought. However, the now homeless Rafeek Khan has come to learn that living right next to the Alberttown Fire Station did not guarantee that his home would be saved.
Now, Khan and his family are calling for a full investigation following Sunday morning’s blaze. The 52-year-old Khan told this newspaper that though he was not at home at the time, he was left speechless when he learnt that the fire service, stationed merely a few feet away did nothing to save his house.
He learnt that as the two storey house was being reduced to mere embers, the fire station had no fire tender or truck driver, even as neighbours frantically sought their assistance that morning.
Khan, his wife and 13-year-old son were on a trip to Region Seven at the time but three other teenagers: his son and two nephews were left at home. He said that evening neighbours saw sparks from the electrical wire leading to his house.
“The boys barely get out of the house. The wire was sparking; the neighbours said they saw blue flames coming off the wire,” Khan said.
The teenagers, he said, had already retired to bed. They were awakened by the smoke emanating from the blaze, which erupted early that morning. The homeowner said the young men “barely made it out” of the house.
“The neighbours were calling them (fire service) repeatedly but no answer. I mean we live right near to the fire station. You know we can see the station through our windows or from the verandah?” the distraught man related.
“By the time they responded, everything was already burnt,” Khan told Kaieteur News. He said that information reaching him indicated that the team that arrived to contain the blaze was from the Campbellville Fire Station.
The father of two related, “You know what it is to hear your house on fire and everything you work hard for gone? I had a fully furnished home; I lose millions. Now we don’t know where we living or eating. All we have left are the clothes on our backs. It can be very traumatic.”
Thankfully, Khan says a member of his church has assisted them with living quarters.
He said that a building is being developed next to him and it has been using high voltage equipment like welding machines, and since then the area has been having power surges. “When you’re watching TV and so, you notice the sudden low shedding.”
The response of the fire service, he said, was nothing short of “terrible.” Khan said: “This is gross negligence and it needs to be addressed. GPL and the power surges as well as the improper management of the equipment used are things that should be investigated. It’s a hazard.”
He complained too that a neighbour’s container has been parked near his house for quite some time, blocking a fire hydrant.
“It’s against the law to even have a car parked close to a hydrant much less something being there permanently. They couldn’t get the water to spray on the house because of this. One of my neighbours had a hose spraying from his house and at that point it was only the embers he could have sprayed on. The container blocks the hydrant.”
The Alberttown Police and Fire stations share one building at the junction of Albert and Fourth Streets, Alberttown. When Kaieteur News checked, an orange container was parked inches from the fence of that compound.
Those homeless are Rafeek, his wife Zilla, sons Yaniv and Shazad Khan; and his nephews Reno Thomas and Trevor Hohenkirk.
Reno Thomas told this publication that the occupants awoke to find their bedroom filled with smoke, but managed to escape unharmed. They were, however, unable to salvage anything.
Only Thomas and relatives, Yaniv Khan and Trevor Hohenkirk, were at home when the fire started.
While one woman expressed gratitude for the efforts by ranks of the Guyana Fire Service in containing the blaze, other
residents complained that ranks from the Alberttown Fire Station, which is located just one building away from the home, did not respond.
There are reports that the driver who operates the fire tender had called in sick and no other driver was available. The residents also made an appeal for Fire Service officials to investigate. Continuous efforts to contact Fire Chief, Marlon Gentle for an update on the situation yesterday proved futile.