'All a mi book dem burn up'

Student rues loss of school material in early-morning fire

Observer staff reporter

Friday, May 17, 2019

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Eight-year-old Rickayla Scotland lost her house and everything in it to a fire yesterday morning, but what seemed foremost on her mind was the loss of her books and not being able to go to school.

“All a mi book dem burn up!” the little girl wailed yesterday when the Jamaica Observer visited the scene.

Rickayla is a grade three student of Holy Rosary Primary School.

“If I was at school I would be learning or playing with my friends,” she told the Observer.

Rickayla is among eight children and 22 adults who have been left homeless as a result of a blaze at 126-128 Orange Street, which allegedly started during a domestic dispute involving one of the occupants of the tenement yard and his girlfriend.

As the morning wore on, the night's harrowing experience seemed to hit the Holy Rosary Primary School student.

“When my mommy wake me up I saw a lot of fire and all of my clothes burn up,” she said, as she stood beside her mother metres away from the place she once called home, now reduced to rubble.

Two men, who attempted to retrieve their belongings from the building, received minor burns, the Jamaica Observer was told.

Operations officer in charge of the Kingston and St Andrew Division of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Superintendent Patrick Gooden reported that firefighters from the Half-Way-Tree, Stony Hill, Trench Town, Rollington Town, and St Catherine stations responded to a call at 11:57 pm.

It took approximately three hours to bring the fire under control and two hours to complete the cooling down process.

At the scene yesterday morning, some furious residents made coarse remarks about the individual suspected of starting the fire.

“Anyweh she deh, she better stay deh,” one woman clutching a young baby uttered.

Virie Williams, who victims hailed for alerting them to the blaze, as many were asleep at the time, said she was sitting at the woodwork shop when she heard one of the residents and his girlfriend quarrelling.

The quarrel soon escalated to a physical fight, Willaims said.

“Mi hear when him say, 'Look from when mi a call yuh and yuh nuh wah ansa yuh phone,' and she say, 'Mi never hear,' and him grab the phone from her and pull it up and mash it up, and fling the body over there so. So mi call the woodwork man dem [and] same time mi see di girl go cross the road with her handbag,” she said.

She said the enraged woman hurled expletives before she was attacked by the man.

Williams said when another resident attempted to quell the brawl, she saw fire coming from the top of the two-storey building and immediately ran into the yard shouting, “Fire!”, while knocking on each occupant's door. She surmised that the blaze was set prior to the second confrontation.

Like the other victims, Williams said she lost everything, including some money she had saved in a so-called partner plan which she had planned to use to repair some of her appliances.

Another victim, Natasha Grant, who was seen clutching a translucent plastic bag bearing the partially burnt immunisation cards for her two children, among other documents, said she, too, lost everything.

“Mi hear dem a call out fire and me grab mi two children and run out,” she explained.

Meanwhile, Superintendent in charge of Kingston Central Police Division Robert Gordon told the Observer yesterday that the police is trying to locate the woman alleged to have set the blaze to asisst in the investigation.

The woodwork shop and a bar were among the buildings destroyed.

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