New Year blow!
An auto-parts store was gutted while a barber shop and a restaurant were badly damaged as fire razed three buildings on Camp Road in central Kingston yesterday morning.
Firefighters took more than one hour to douse the flames that were visible from hundreds of metres away, while the cooling-down operation continued for some time.
While the firefighters worked, the owners, operators and employees of the three businesses looked on in shock, some weeping openly.
The owners of Everyday Auto Parts at 30 Camp Road, a family business, showed their distress as the tears flowed.
One member of the family, Claudine Scott, told The Sunday Gleaner that the business has been operating for more than 12 years and the fire has left at least 14 persons without a job.
"My husband got a call about 8:30 a.m. that the place was on fire, and so far, we don't have a clue what started the fire," Scott said as she wiped away the meandering tears.
"A container was supposed to come in yesterday with some parts, but some glitches caused us to make a decision to deal with it in the upcoming week," added Scott, as she noted that while they are hoping to get back into business quickly, this will prove difficult because of the extent of their losses.
Gregory Thomas, who operates a barber shop on the adjoining complex at 32 Camp Road, was somewhat luckier as he was able to save most of his equipment. However, the fire left the building badly damaged.
"I got a call that the place was on fire and I ran to the scene and saw the auto place on fire, but I acted quickly," said Thomas, who had been operating at the premises for two years.
"The good thing is that I didn't lose anything great, but it is a setback because today (yesterday) is my daughter's birthday," he added.
A justice of peace in the area, Horace Matthews, who placed the distress call to the fire service, told our news team that he was alerted to call the Fire Brigade after noticing the smoke coming from Everyday Auto Parts.
According to Matthews, he initially thought that the watchman for the complex was burning some garbage, but later realised that the smoke was coming from the back of the building. Matthews said the fire spread quickly as he called the Fire Brigade, which arrived on the scene promptly.
"I told them that the place is on fire and they asked if it is a large one and I said yes. They asked which was the closest fire station to me and I told them that Rollington Town would be the closest," said Matthews. "Before I knew it, the unit arrived in a very good response time," he added.
Senior Deputy Superintendent of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Patrick Gooden, said the call was received at about 8:55 yesterday morning, and when the firefighters arrived, the building was engulfed in flames.
According to Gooden, they called for assistance, which came from the Trench Town, Stony Hill, York Park and Spanish Town fire stations.
"The magnitude of the fire was such that it spread to 32 Camp Road due to the high-wind conditions. It took us about an hour and a half to bring the fire under control," noted Gooden.
"We are yet to determine the cause of the fire; however, we will be doing further investigations to make a determination of the likely origin," said Gooden, as he refused to join the speculation that the fire was started by a Jamaica Public Service power line.
"Based on the fact that Number 30 Camp Road is a commercial entity, it contained a number of parts and other automobile items. We are looking at about $15-$20 million dollars in losses," he said.