Nearly 20 people in neighbouring St. James communities are struggling to pick up the pieces following two devastating fires that destroyed five homes in a matter of hours.
Three houses at Doughlin Road, Weston, St. James went up in flames at 7:30 on Tuesday evening resulting in a chorus of wailing as residents came to grips with the reality of devastating loss.
Four hours later, at around 11:30, firemen were once again in the area, this time at Upper Carlton, where two more houses were razed and another extensively damaged.
With the fire station at Weston, St. James no longer operational, a total of nine fire officers in three tenders responded – some from as far away as the Bridgetown Fire Station.
According to firemen, the first blaze started at the home of Juan Gibbons before quickly spreading and eventually destroying the houses of Jefferson Gibbons and Jueal Gibbons which housed 11 members of the family including three children. The house belonging to David Hinds was also damaged.
Fifty-three-year-old Keely Gibbons, one of the victims, explained she had just gotten home after a full day of work at the Weston Fish Market and was beginning to unwind, when a relative raised the alarm about the burning house next door.
The news prompted a civilian effort to contain the flames, which caused minor burns to two residents from the hot splintering glass. But buckets of water and a garden hose were no match for the powerful blaze. In fact, even the best efforts of fire fighters were unable to save the three houses.
“Everything is burnt up. I feel so bad. I don’t have anywhere to live, I don’t have anywhere to sleep, nothing!” Keely cried.
“I don’t have any clothes. My ID cards and everything burnt up. My stepfather just bought a brand new television and a brand new fridge and everything is burnt up. Everything is burnt,” she explained.
Among the homeless are a six-month-old, five-year-old and a 14-year-old who, like their other family members will be having to spend the next few nights with different relatives.
In addition to the absence of shelter, some victims are in desperate need of assistance with basic supplies like baby formula, food, pampers, and children’s clothing.
The shocking events have pressed St. James North Member of Parliament Edmund Hinkson into action as he provided food and clothing vouchers for the affected constituents. The MP is also working with Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Cynthia Forde to facilitate further welfare assistance.
Just a short distance away at Upper Carlton, St. James, the victims, though reeling from Tuesday night’s losses, are happy to be alive as some were asleep around 11:30 when it started. Darrell Cadogan, who was at home with his brother, believes the fire started in an unoccupied wooden house and quickly spread to theirs, burning both of them to the ground.
It also significantly damaged the next door two-storey, wall house owned and occupied by Peter Hinds, his wife, Pauline Hinds and their two adult children. The wall structure did not collapse under the heat, but the charred walls, damaged roofs, broken windows and extensive water damage is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.
“We are devastated because you don’t like to hear about these things happening to others and it hits home really hard when it happens to you,” Pauline told Barbados TODAY.
“It has been devastating, because although we haven’t lost the entire house there’s still a lot of damage, but we are thankful that we got out alive so we are giving thanks to God that no one was hurt because our uncles were able to escape as well.”
The structure also houses the well-known First and Last Bar – a popular karaoke spot that is famous for serving up pickled seacat and pudding and souse.
“We are grateful it hasn’t been any worse. Wednesdays and Saturdays are usually fairly good days, but we will count our losses, make some arrangements and bounce back,” pledged Peter.
Fire officials are yet to determine the origin of either fire. Residents in Doughlin’s believe it is linked to an unattended stove, but there is no word on what may have started the blaze at Upper Carlton.