Proprietor of B&N Variety Snackette & Bar Beverley Hughes was quietly preparing dinner at her home along the corner of Halls Road and Belmont Road, St Michael when she noticed a billow of smoke but thought nothing of it.
Moments later she heard a loud scream of “fire”, signalling there was danger.
Rushing outside, Hughes discovered that the nearby home of Pamela Layne was ablaze and the fire was headed in her direction.
“The most I can tell you is that I was in the kitchen cooking and I saw smoke. So I thought it was fogging, but then the smoke kept coming and then I heard ‘fire’,” the visibly shaken woman told Barbados TODAY.
Hughes’ home and shop were damaged in the 5 p.m blaze, which affected three other houses and 15 residents in total.
Acting Divisional Fire Officer Mervin Mayers told Barbados TODAY that of the four affected houses, “two are slightly damaged, one completely destroyed and the other extensively damaged”.
Amid a chaotic scene, three fire tenders, one water tanker, 11 fire officers and their superiors quickly brought the blaze under control as neighbours, curious onlookers and police officers looked on.
A distraught Pamela Layne, who lost all her possessions, declined to speak to the media.
However, her son Jason said it was a big blow for his mother, who had just started a new job this week after being unemployed for sometime.
“My mother was at work when she got a call . . . . This is rough for my family a month before Christmas, so it will be tough.”
Layne shared the house with her daughter and had lived there all her life.
“They lost everything,” Jason said, but attempted to remain hopeful saying, “we have a close-knit community, so everyone will pull together and try to cope as best as we can”.
Layne’s sister Angela Smart, who lived adjacent to the burnt out home, expressed deep concern for her sister.
“My sister lost everything,” she lamented.
Smart, who appeared to be in a state of shock as she sat on the step of her home, said she “saw the smoke and ran outside, but I didn’t have a hose, so then I ran out and people started to move out things from my home [before the blaze spread] to the shop.”
Today’s blaze also came as a major blow to the shop owner, who has been operating at the location for about nine and a half years.
“It will be a set back . . . thousands of dollars,” Hughes said, explaining that “a lot of expensive stuff got broken and a lot of things got destroyed.
“This is too much to think of right now.”
She was nevertheless grateful that she was alive.
At the scene, Member of Parliament for St Michael South Central Richard Sealy was busy speaking to the families, only pausing momentarily to say he was there, “comforting friends”.
Former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) representative for the area David Gill and his BLP successor Marsha Caddle were also busy speaking to the victims.
Social Care Minister Steve Blackett was also on hand and expressed regret over the incident. He also assured that his ministry would work with Sealy to ensure that the displaced families got the required assistance.
“I am in the process now of seeing what available accommodation there is, at least to accommodate them for tonight and probably tomorrow night and in the meantime, the Member of Parliament Mr Richard Sealy would put things in place to further accommodate them,” Blackett said.