Victim of $120m MoBay auto parts fire devastated
Businessman Edgar ‘John John’ Johnson is still reeling from the J$120-million fire that destroyed his used auto-parts business on Hart Street in Montego Bay on Wednesday night.
“It has left me wounded, crippled, and astonished. I just don’t know where to start … don’t know where to start,” muttered Johnson as he stared at the burnt-out remains of the building. “It’s not all about the money, but about my love for my business, which is now totally gone.”
The parts retailer told The Gleaner that he was especially concerned that the “small man out there, like the poor taxi operators, the drivers, and mechanics with the old vehicles who depend on me on a daily basis for used parts”, might have to source pricier alternatives elsewhere.
Johnson, who has operated John John Auto from Hart Street for more than 10 years, had just completed a new building, located in proximity of the destroyed premises and was in the process of moving shop at the time of the fire.
“With the new building, we were looking forward to expanding our operations, so as you can imagine, this fire is a big setback,” said Johnson. “As I said before, I honestly don’t know where to start to put this business back together.”
According to reports, about 11 p.m. on Wednesday, residents living along Hart Street observed fire inside the building and raised an alarm. The blaze quickly spread to a nearby tenement, where several board houses were also destroyed.
The St James Fire Department responded to the fire with three units and an ambulance. Twenty-seven firefighters battled the flames for four hours but only managed to save the neighbouring Whatts Meat Shop, which had also caught fire.
“Several persons from the neighbouring tenement yard lost their homes and all their belongings,” said District Officer Oneil Kerr, who heads the St James Fire Department. “In terms of monetary loss, the greatest loss was to John John Auto, which was completely destroyed.”