Sangster back to normal

BY HORACE HINES Observer staff reporter

Friday, May 16, 2014

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Operations at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay were back to normal yesterday, following Wednesday night's fire which razed a building housing the maintenance and storage area of aircraft ground handling company AJAS.

"Everything was normal after we concluded the emergency at 10:30 yesterday (Wednesday) evening and operations remain as normal today (yesterday)," Elizabeth Brown Scotton, chief commercial officer at MBJ Airports Limited, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

There were no casualties or injuries, only 20-minute delays to two flights -- a Jet Air flight to Brussels, Belgium and a Condor flight to Frankfurt, Germany. This, Brown Scotton said, was a result of precautionary measures employed by MBJ.

"That was it, really, because our emergency response people were on site ensuring that there was no danger to the terminal and the airport apron area, and then aircraft were allowed to depart," she said.

"It's important to know that it was a structural fire of a building. It's not attached to the main terminal building; it did not cause any damage to the main terminal building."

Meanwhile, Conroy Ghans, acting deputy superintendent in charge of operations at the St James division of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, revealed that preliminary investigations suggest the fire was caused by an electrical short-circuit in the roof of one of the restrooms.

"We suspect that the fire was started as a result of an electrical short-circuit, based on the evidence of our investigators," he explained.

"In the ceiling of one of the restrooms we saw evidence of arching and fusing of electrical wires, which normally happens as a result of electrical short-circuit."

Arching is a term used to describe the "kissing" of wires.

He, however, noted that an estimate of the damage was not yet ascertained.

"The building was destroyed, as well as a number of vehicles, including pickups, and other equipment were damaged," Ghans said.

Reports are that about 9:05, St James firefighters responded to a call that a fire was raging at the AJAS maintenance and storage area on the MBJ-operated property.

The St James Fire Department, which responded with 40 of its members and the use of seven units, joined forces with the 10 MBJ firefighters, using three units.

Ghans said the operation lasted over two hours -- approximately 20 minutes to bring the blaze under control and prevent it from spreading to the nearby terminal building, an hour-and-a-half to extinguish the flames, and an additional hour-and-a-half for the cooling-down procedures.

Brown Scotton had high praise for the St James Fire Department.

"We have a Response Emergency Services crew that is located at the airport that answered to the emergency immediately because they are located at the airport. But the Jamaica Fire Brigade came within minutes. The response time was absolutely incredible and they had the fire contained very, very quickly," she said.

Wednesday night's incident attracted a large number of curious onlookers on the grounds of the MBJ property.

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