Mon | Mar 30, 2020

Trench Town ‘hellfire’ leaves dozens homeless - Eight families now without a roof at Christmas

Published:Monday | December 23, 2019 | 12:29 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Donovan Richards sifts through the charred reamins of his home yesterday.
Donovan Richards sifts through the charred reamins of his home yesterday.

Donovan Richards spent a delightful Saturday night having drinks with friends. The 51-year-old was in high spirits not only because of the Christmas season, but yesterday was his birthday.

Soon after he returned to his Fourth Street home in Trench Town, Kingston, and was lying in bed, taking a breather, early yesterday morning, less than four hours into his birthday, the house suddenly became a raging “hellfire”.

A devastating inferno ripped through his home and those of his neighbours, leaving eight families, including 15 adults and several children, without a roof over their heads for Christmas.

“I can’t talk right now. [It’s] just unbelievable,” a devastated Richards told The Gleaner yesterday as he looked at the charred remains of his home.

“Today is my earthstrong (birthday), enuh. It is supposed to be a happy day, but watch this,” he said, scanning the ruins as the morning sun exposed the extent of the destruction.

Richards said the fire began about 3:30 a.m. and quickly spread through the mostly wooden structures at a section of Fourth Street. Two units from the York Park Fire Station managed to put out the blaze before it could spread to other houses in the densely populated section of the community.

There was nothing Richards could have done but watch everything he owned – barring the clothes he was wearing at the time – go up in flames in what was the second such blaze on Fourth Street in less than a month.

“It wicked what happened here, enuh, and to make matters worse, I don’t even have the slightest idea how to start over again,” he told The Gleaner, adding that he would be seeking help from St Andrew Southern Member of Parliament (MP) Mark Golding.

“Is the big man MP I will have to rely on for assistance, seeing it’s Christmas,” he said.

Sudden heat

Sophia Walker, one of the affected residents, told The Gleaner that she was snuggled up in her bed when a sudden heat enveloped the room she shared with her children as smoke began coming through the roof.

Walker said that she instinctively rushed to get her children outside and that it was then that she realised that her neighbour’s house was fully engulfed in flames.

“We lost everything in the house, including toys for the children, schoolbooks and bags, not to mention dem shoes and clothes. We just glad no one died,” Walker said.

Sophia’s sister, Kenisha Walker, said were it not for the heroic efforts of other neighbours using buckets of water to douse nearby homes to stave off the fire before the fire units could engage, the devastation would have been worse.

Roy Brown, whose house was also destroyed, said all he could save with help from residents were a dresser and a bed. Everything else is gone.

MP Golding said that there is strong demand for a renewal of the housing stock in that part of his constituency and that it will require both short-term and long-term planning to avoid a repetition of Sunday morning’s tragedy.

“What many people don’t know is that properties there are owned by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation, plus, the residents there don’t pay mortgages in what is really outdated and clustered houses.”

Golding said that he would be making representation on the victims’ behalf to Food For The Poor, which has done work in the constituency, and to other government agencies.