$1 billion up in smoke

$1 billion up in smoke

Some 50 people out of work following massive fire at Ashenheim Road property

Senior staff reporter

Monday, December 02, 2019

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A preliminary estimate of the early morning blaze, which razed Atlantic Hardware on Ashenheim Road in Kingston on Saturday, leaving some 50 people out of work, has been put at $1 billion.

Fire service investigators are to this morning begin sifting through the rubble to ascertain the cause of the fire which began sometime after 6 am on Saturday and raged for well over 16 hours.

Superintendent in charge of the Kingston and St Andrew Fire Service, Julian Davis-Buckle, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that it was 10 pm Saturday before firefighters pulled from the Trench Town, York Park, Half-Way-Tree and Spanish Town stations managed to bring the blaze under control before starting cooling down operations, which continued into yesterday afternoon.

“The facility was destroyed. There were tonnes of pvc (Polyvinyl chloride) products, pipes, fittings, louvre blades and those were what caused the problems we had last night (Saturday). There were toxic fumes coming off so we had to retreat,” she said in explaining the magnitude of the challenge the firefighters, many seen without breathing apparatus, faced.

“We are still doing cooling down operations. Our investigators will be coming in tomorrow morning (today). One of the things we have done is secure the scene as best we can so as to secure any evidence. No access to outsiders is allowed in the building; we are trying to ensure that when our investigators go in they can pick up whatever they need to,” Davis-Buckle told the Observer yesterday some moments after 1 pm.

The fire chief was far more instrumental in the protection of life and property than she would admit, having been the first to raise the alarm about the blaze.

“They do have a fire alarm system and it was activated and it triggered their response team from King Alarm, however, the actual call to the fire station, I was passing on my way to a training exercise sometime after 6 am and I saw the billow of smoke so I stopped and made enquiry to my control whether they had received a call about a fire at Ashenheim Road and they said no, so I immediately instructed them to dispatch response vehicles,” said Davis-Buckle.

“One of the good things about yesterday's operation was that we were early to the scene and we controlled the fire and kept it from affecting the other businesses, we had no water shortages, we had a hydrant near the property that we used and we had enough units. That was a good thing for us in containing the fire. At no time during the operations were we without water, we had a continuous flow from my units and from the hydrant,” she told the Observer.

In the meantime the fire chief issued a word of caution to individuals particularly in the lead up to the festive season.

“Be vigilant, if you don't have an alarm system get one; ensure your workers are trained in terms of early response,” she said.

Mid-morning yesterday when the Observer visited the property our news team saw three fire units on the scene. One small plume of smoke was observed coming from the smouldering building. One security guard, attached to the company, explained that while the fire had been contained instructions were that no one should be allowed close to the property.

“It is hectic and unsafe now, we are not letting anybody pass through,” he said, adding “they have lost a lot of things”.

According to the security guard, about ten people who reported for works at the plant were 'giving assistance' to the fire personnel.

Last September several buildings adjacent to the property, where Saturday's fire took place, were also destroyed in a blaze.

Atlantic Hardware is owned by businessman Donald Fung who also lost a warehouse in that incident.

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