‘God will restore’
VENDORS from Montego Bay Shoe Market in St James have been left scrambling to pick up the pieces after their wares were destroyed in a fire that razed the establishment early Sunday morning.
When the Jamaica Observer visited the scene, vendors could be seen pacing around — some sitting, others standing — as they contemplated their next move following the devastating loss.
Clothes vendor Ann Marie Dobson said she and her daughter lost their shops, which were side by side in the space.
“A Monday and Wednesday we go and buy our goods, because a every week we go buy goods,” she stated.
She said she had to tell her daughter to go home as she was overcome by the incident.
“Life goes on. I am Job sister, because Job did lose everything and God give him back 10 times. God will give me back everything, God will restore. My life not gone; I didn’t lose my life and life have to go on,” she said firmly.
Another vendor, Oneika Peirce, told the Observer millions went up in smoke in just a matter of hours.
“A millions I lose in there, yeah, but I have to just trust God and live because in everything you have to put God first,” Peirce said.
She is, however, hopeful that the relevant agencies will come to their aid.
“Maybe the authorities will come and do something, maybe like the mayor, the Member of Parliament, the councillor,” she further opined.
Compared to a few other vendors who were quite irate with how things turned out, she praised firefighters for their actions on the day.
“It’s in this lane here the fire start so, actually, my shop, you would have to be bulletproof vest to go in there. I respect the firefighters in every way because some people just talk, but mouth can’t extinguish this,” she stated.
Another clothes vendor, who gave her name as Bennett, said this was the second time she was facing this situation of seeing her belongings destroyed in a blaze.
“Second time I burn out; in 2015 I burn out,” she said.
Bennett further disclosed how she has been impacted, given the fact that she was in preparation for the usually busy holiday season that is set to get underway in a couple of months.
“Everything gone. Just the other day I got some shoes from foreign and have them in the shop and say Christmas I’m going to put them out, and now everything gone,” she lamented.
Other vendors bemoaned that, apart from some damage they might have suffered due to the blaze, there are other issues to contend with.
“Some man just steal my things, and look how the thing happened. Instead of helping, them a thief,” a man stated about the situation.
When pressed, fire personnel explained that they could not provide an estimate for the loss.
But the Jamaica Fire Brigade used the opportunity to respond to claims, now making the rounds on social media, that units from the Montego Bay Fire Station, which responded to the fire, had no water.
“Nonsense! Our units are parked with water. In fact, we have not depleted our water supply at any time at all during the operation,” said Superintendent Roland Walters who, in responding to media queries about the situation, insisted that fire units designed to carry water, parked at a fire station, are always filled to capacity.
He, however, explained that the firemen had connected their units at times to nearby hydrants during the operation, but had to contend with less than optimum supply.
“The operation went through seamlessly [and] with sufficient water, even though the water pressure was low in the area. Whatever water water we got from the hydrant was a continuous flow to the fire unit and so, up until now, we have not depleted our water supply,” he said.
The St James Fire Department revealed that they received the call about 2:13 am and responded promptly, given that the area affected was just metres away.
Three units from the Montego Bay Fire Station, one from Ironshore, and another from Falmouth responded to the blaze.
Walters said the operation went very well, despite the fact that the unit responding from the Ironshore station had to leave midway the operation to deal with an accident on the Rose Hall main road which left four individuals injured.
The department said they managed to save about half of the 100 shops that were in the space, though the shops were mainly made of plywood and zinc roofing which led to an easy spread.
In the meantime, the fire chief sought to empathise with the vendors, some of whom lost their entire livelihoods, but also urged a word of caution given that some individuals tried to douse the flames before calling the firefighters.
“People try to help themselves before getting assistance from fire department. When we received the call this morning and arrived on scene there was free burning — approximately 40 per cent of the geographical area was on fire,” he revealed, explaining that this action led to the blaze getting out of control.
While emphasising that he understood the desperation in wanting to extinguish flames in the event of a fire, Walters said it is best to call the fire department as soon as such a situation starts, instead of waiting until it is beyond control.