‘Nothing except the clothes on we back’
Fourteen homeless after Spanish Town fire
After getting a call Tuesday afternoon that her six-bedroom board house in Ellerslie Pen was on fire, Pauline McKay rushed from the Spanish Town Market, her heart frozen with fear.
Though discovering that the entire dwelling was razed, she was relieved to learn that her three-year-old and six-year-old grandchildren, whom she had left playing, were safe.
The fire swept through the building, leaving 14 people, including eight children, homeless. Firefighters contained the raging blaze that threatened neighbouring houses.
McKay’s neighbour, Anthony Allen, who sought to save his two-room board house, suffered injuries.
In a desperate effort to help put out the blaze, he got entangled with a live electrical wire.
Allen sustained multiple burn wounds and is now a patient at Spanish Town Hospital. His condition is not considered life-threatening.
Ellerslie Pen is located in Spanish Town, St Catherine.
McKay revealed that her family was devastated.
“We have nothing except the clothes on we back,” said the distraught McKay as she looked at the wreckage.
“All the children’s clothes, school clothes, and books burn up. They cannot go to school. I went to the school and let the principal know. Right now we are all separated, everybody staying with different people.”
McKay said she is exploring the theory that her grandchildren may have accidentally started the fire.
“I really don’’t know for sure, but that is what I hear. I can’t put my finger on it, because I left them outside when I was leaving. I don’t know how they get back inside,” she told The Gleaner.
McKay, who is now staying with a relative, put her loss at $5 million.
Her neighbour, Admerine Morgan Wheatley, said that a section of her concrete home was destroyed by the fire. Her husband was not at home when the tragedy unfolded.
Morgan Wheatley has been struggling to put the pieces back together after losing everything in a previous fire two years ago.
“I was at work across the road at Tawes Pen when I saw the smoke, and someone called me and said my house on fire. When mi reach there, the fireman dem put out the fire, but it still destroy mi TV, mi settee, mi stove, and other things,” she lamented.
Morgan Wheatley, who estimated the cost of the damage to be $2 million, suggested that her home may have been spared if firefighters had responded much faster.
However, a neighbour, who requested anonymity, dismissed Morgan Wheatley’s criticism of the brigade as unfair.
Meanwhile, a spokesman at the Spanish Town Fire Station disputed Morgan Wheatley’s claim.
The spokesman said the fire station received the call about 3:50 p.m. and responded with one unit and a pumper eight minutes later. The fire was extinguished before it spread to other buildings, the spokesman said.
The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.