ANTIGUA – Fire leaves 15 jobless

Fifteen people, mostly self-employed, lost their businesses when a fire broke out and burned three buildings in the city during the early morning hours yesterday.

Those left jobless operated or worked at Cameo Boutique/Gigi Plaza Store, Valitta’s Salon, and Uprising Barber Shop and Hair and Nail Salon located on Tanner Street and Corn Alley.

The fire chief, Assistant Commissioner of Police Elvis Weaver, told Observer media the investigators did not have any “suspicion” or “information” regarding the cause of the fire which was reported to the St John’s Fire Department at 4:13 a.m.

“When the [fire officers] got there, they met a few businesses fully engulfed in flames, so the fire officers got into action by trying to extinguish and control the blaze. It is too early to determine the cause of the fire, but we will continue investigations,” he said.

The chief said investigators spoke with some of the affected people who said no one was in any of the businesses at the time of the incident; nonetheless, the officers had to examine the rubble for themselves.

“We spoke to the owners after . . . the buildings are definitely destroyed. The whole place has to be torn down. We are not aware if they were insured as yet. It is information we will collect later,” he added.

In addition to the three fire engines that responded from St John’s, a fourth one was called upon from the All Saint Fire Department to assist, since the fire was spreading fast from one wooden building to the next.

“We had to call out the All Saints Fire Station because when we encounter fires like these we normally seek the assistance to make sure the fire doesn’t spread or get worse,” Weaver explained.

He said the St John’s team got to the scene within three minutes of receiving the call, but the fire had already “done its damage.” There are many other businesses that cluster the area, and they, too, are wooden.

Vehicular traffic was cut off for three-and-a-half hours as the officers were forced to block the two streets to allow the firemen to work. The Antigua Public Utilities Authority team had to disconnect the power and later restore it as the city began to buzz with business activities and children were heading to the bus stations to get to school.

Amellya Ali ran the salon in the absence of her daughter. And, it has only been two months since they opened the business at the Tanner Street location. “It was the only place I worked and there are three other people who worked in there and rented. There is a lot destroyed because each person had their own equipment, their products and other things . . . blowers, dryers, nail dryers/hot ovens, irons.”

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