Trinidad Express:-An autistic child, saying a prayer for his imprisoned father, dropped a lighted candle on a mattress igniting a blaze which destroyed three homes in Marabella on Monday.
The flames ravaged four apartments and spread to two houses next door at Bayshore, Marabella.
In all 28 persons, including a dozen children, have been left homeless.
The fire broke out around 10.15a.m. as the matriarch of the family, 83-year-old Agnes Tannis, was planning a Boxing Day lime with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Tannis, who would celebrate her birthday on Thursday, is visually impaired and was sitting on the front porch when the fire started.
The Express was told that the four-year-old boy, who was born with a mental disability, and his five young siblings were left in the care of an aunt while their mother went to a nearby parlour.
Nandy Grant, his aunt, said the child was playing in the yard when she told him to go inside and change his clothes.
“He was naked and playing in the yard so I told him go inside and put on some clothes. His father is in jail so his mother always has a candle lighting on a shelf for the father. He sees his mother praying by the candle and he wanted to do the same thing. He would go by the candle and pray for his daddy. So this morning when he went inside, instead of going for his clothes he went and pick up the candle to pray. And he drop it on the bed,” she said.
The child’s 11-month-old baby brother was asleep on the bed, Grant said.
But it was his seven-year-old sister who saved their lives, she said. The little girl saw the smoke and called out to Grant who was on the porch.
“I ran into the bedroom and grab the baby from the bed and my other nephew and ran out. Then we started calling out to everyone from the house,” she said.
Grant said neighbours moved in and formed a bucket brigade to out the blaze, but the four-apartment house was quickly engulfed in flames.
The blaze spread to houses on either sides of the house. Those houses were also destroyed.
Kay Williams, who occupied one of the apartments with her six children, said she was thankful that none of her children, ages seven to 11 months, were injured.
Mom saves her son
Nandy Grant, who also has an autistic son, said she did not know six-year-old Asa Grant was inside her apartment when the fire started.
Grant said she ran inside the apartment to save her $6,000 flat screen television when she heard her son’s voice in the thick smoke.
She said, “All the children were outside. I didn’t know Asa went back into the apartment. When I saw the fire spreading my apartment downstairs I ran inside to move my TV. While I pulling it out my son ask why I moving the TV. The place was black and I couldn’t see him. I pelt that TV away and grab my child and run out.”
Grant said her son suffered smoke inhalation and would be taken for medical treatment.
The mother of two said although she lost everything in the blaze she was happy that she saved her child’s life.
Dont’ leave children unattended
At the house next door, Peggy Alleyne was also counting her losses. Alleyne said she was not at home when the fire spread to her house and was in disbelief when she arrived.
She said 10 persons had occupied the house, including her six children ages 25 to seven, sister Natalie Greene and brother Anthony Pierre.
In tears, Alleyne said, “I was out when I got a call that the house was on fire. I came back here and could not believe what happened. I am pleading to parents to please don’t leave your children unattended. Look at the disaster that happened here. Look after your children the right way.”
Alleyne said she was clueless as to how she would rebuild her home.
She was consoled by her sister, Natalie Greene, who is the grandmother of the autistic child.
Greene said, “We would rebuild. Don’t blame the child. He was praying for his father. Have mercy on him. The Bible was saved, it scorched, but it was saved.
Fire appliances from the Mon Repos fire station responded to the report and officers were able to contain the blaze from spreading to other houses.
Neighbour Donna Scott said she was proud, as the young and old came out to assist four families in distress.
Scott said she was at home when she heard screams coming from a house engulfed in flames.
“I just see people running out of their homes to help. Young men and old people started pulling out children and the elderly woman from the burning house. I am a proud mother and grandmother today. They all co-operated to make sure no one was injured in the fire,” she said.
When the Express arrived scores of people were still gathered at the scene assisting the displaced families.
Newly-appointed San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello arrived on the scene of the fire and promised to assist the affected families.
Regrello said the families would move into a building at the old Bayshore basketball court for the next two days.
He said the families would be assisted with food hampers and mattresses.
Regrello said builing material would arrive on Wednesday to begin rebuilding their homes.