There were no injuries; there was no extensive damage, but a fire this afternoon at the Warrens Office Complex which houses several Government offices, left occupants alarmed because the warning system apparently failed.
Under the command of Acting Chief Fire Officer Errol Maynard, along with Deputy Chief Lloydston Phillips, one divisional officer, one station officer and 11 other officers, two water tankers and a water tender from the Probyn Street Fire Station responded to a call around 3:45 this afternoon.
And while the fire caused only minor damage to a men’s bathroom on the fourth floor, the main concern was that of a seemingly faulty fire alarm.
Fiona Weekes who works at the National HIV/AIDS Commission located on the second floor complained she was only alerted about the fire after she saw a woman waving frantically.
“We were on the second floor in the balcony and we happened to look out and there was a lady outside motioning to us and shouting something, but we couldn’t understand what she was saying. Suddenly we realized she was shouting ‘fire’ so we stepped out on the balcony and looked around and realized there was actually fire coming from the building,” Weekes recalled.
“There was no alarm that went off in the building or anything of the sort. It was just that word of mouth spread and people started coming out of the building.”
Director of the National HIV/AIDS Commission Jacqui Wiltshire also reported that she never heard the fire alarm go off.
“We didn’t hear any general warning or anything, we just followed procedure. We heard there was a fire and we just followed our own procedure. We didn’t hear any alarm or anything through the PA system,” she pointed out.
Maynard said during previous fire drills done at the complex, the fire alarm had worked. However, he admitted that while he did not hear the alarm when he arrived, investigations would have to be carried out to verify whether it had worked.
He revealed that although it only took about one minute for fire officers to extinguish the blaze, the bathroom had been discoloured by soot, the urinals and toilets damaged and an extractor fan had been destroyed.
Maynard said investigations would also have to be carried out to determine the cause of the fire.
Minister of Housing Denis Kellman visited the scene, telling reporters he was at his usual Thursday Cabinet meeting when he got the call.
“I’m happy that all the employees were safe and that the fire was confined to a minor part of the building,” he said.
Kellman said he found it strange that the alarm didn’t alert staff, as it was accustomed to going off during drills.
“Employees are saying that the alarm didn’t go off, but when checks were done, the alarm always worked. I find it rather strange it didn’t go off on this occasion.”