KINGSTON – Rosemarie Forbes started yesterday in sad reflection on the death of one of her five sons a year ago. By mid-afternoon her day got worse, as a massive fire destroyed her restaurant on Chancery Lane in downtown Kingston.
The building housing the restaurant was one of six — two on Chancery Lane and four on King Street — razed, leaving 50 people, among them children, homeless.
According to Forbes, the fire started on King Street.
“I instructed the fireman to put the hose over there so, because the back room catch and nobody was listening to me,” Forbes told the Jamaica Observer, pointing to the building that housed the restaurant.
“Today is the memorial for one of my sons who died last year. The restaurant sent him to law school. He died as a lawyer. Him just a cry for headache [and] we carried him to the hospital. He just spent one week in the hospital and died. Today is a day that I will never forget,” Forbes said, her eyes filled with tears.
No one was injured in the blaze.
One of Forbes’ sons, who lived in one of the buildings on King Street, said he had just got home from school, put his backpack down and was about to speak with his mother in the restaurant when the fire started.
The fifth-form student, who is sitting the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams, said he lost everything.
Another resident, Marlo Clarke, said he was awakened by the smoke.
“Heavy smoke wake mi up, and mi a say ‘A who a hot up Sunday/Monday?’” he related in reference to the practice among some Jamaicans to eat leftovers from Sunday’s dinner on Monday.
“Yu know when somebody a hot up Sunday/Monday and the rice a ketch inna di pot, and mi know say nuhbody over here nuh have nuh gas stove, a hot plate dem use, so it surprise mi. So mi a walk a look and mi a smell the smoke stronger and stronger until mi hear one lady bawl out say ‘Fire!’ When mi look, a di same place weh mi normally hot the food . . . a deh so di fire start from, right behind my yard,” Clarke said.
A number of the fire victims told the Observer that they were at work when they were informed about the blaze.
Jamaica Fire Brigade assistant commissioner in charge of Area One Sean Martin told the Observer that they were summoned to 109 King Street approximately 3 p.m.
“We immediately dispatched a unit from the York Park Fire Station that arrived at approximately 3:04 p.m. Upon arrival they called for additional assistance and we dispatched four other units to the scene. An additional one came from York Park, one came from Trench Town, one came from Rollington Town, and the other came from Half-Way-Tree. It was actually 38 firefighters in total that combated the blaze,” Martin explained.
He said the infrastructure of the buildings presented the firefighters with several challenges as they were old and joined together, resulting in the fire spreading easily.
Martin said the fire brigade intends to secure a stop order on the buildings to prevent the residents from reoccupying them.