Guyana: Residents, firemen clash

Guyana Chronicle:–  POLICE last evening had to make peace between residents of Number 45 and surrounding villages in East Berbice, Corentyne and firemen attached to the Skeldon Fire Station over tardiness.

The incident arose from the fire tender’s arrival at the scene of a fire at Number 45 Village, some one hour after the Service was called, just in time to douse the few remaining embers from the gutted building.

According to Ganesh Budhoo, the owner of the building which went up in flames, he and his family were at his mother’s in Number 59 Village when they received word a little after 19:30h that his home was on fire.
Budhoo said that on hearing this, he immediately called the fire service and rushed to the scene, only to find the house partially engulfed.

Said he,”When meh reach, de fire nah been spread yet. The upstairs was on fire but not too big, suh meh call back de fire service again a couple time,and dem tell meh dem ah come, but dem only show up after everything bu’n out.”

The visibly shaken rice farmer said he is at a loss for words, as he cannot begin to put a value on what he has lost to the fire, since he had a lot of expensive equipment that he uses to cultivate his crops, coupled with his life savings that was invested to make the home comfortable.
The house, he explained, belonged to an overseas-based Guyanese, and he has been living there for most of his life with his wife and two kids, aged seven and eight.

According to one eyewitness, Ramkarran Singh, called ‘Ramsingh’, he heard shouts of fire, and noticed a flame coming from the back upper floor of the wooden and concrete two-storey building. He said he immediately called the fire service, which was at around 19:32h, and then quickly made his way over to the burning building to see what he could salvage.

“When meh reach, only de back been ah bu’n, suh me and dem odder boys start push out de tractor dem ‘cause nobody was home,” ‘Ramsingh’ said.
“And by de time we finish, de fire start spread, suh we could not out it.”

He explained that had the Fire Service responded within 30 minutes of their being called, they could have saved the building.

Meanwhile, when this publication arrived on the scene, residents were all questioning the whereabouts of the tender which arrived at precisely 20:38h.
As they pulled up, residents started to shout, “Tu’n back! Nah bodder out nutten! Now you reach!”
Needless to say, this angered the firemen, who were busy trying to set up their hoses.
Not satisfied with just heckling, the residents began to gather around the fire tender, and as police ranks tried to restrain them, things got decidedly physical.

But eventually, good sense prevailed and the residents allowed the firemen to do their job, only to realise they were out of water, and that their only recourse was a nearby trench.

At this, residents again piped up, calling this time around for a fire station between Rose Hall and Skeldon.

Leehkha Rambridge, a popular rice farmer and President of Rice Producers Association (RPA) who was on the scene, told the Guyana Chronicle that he had offered a plot of land to the Fire Service several years ago for the construction of a Fire Station at Bengal. He said that though he got no response at the time, the offer still stands.

Investigations are ongoing as to the cause of the fire.

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