ST JAMES, Jamaica — A second house fire in as many days has left residents of Crawford Street in Mount Salem, St James worried that things may get worse.
In total eight people, including three children, have been left homeless after fire partially gutted two structures in close proximity to each other.
On Friday, a split-level building was partially destroyed leaving two adults and a child homeless. There were no reported injuries but there was talk among some onlookers that the fire had been deliberately set. This claim has not been confirmed.
According to firefighters, about 12:20 pm they received a call that a house was on fire. They responded with two units from the Barnett Street fire station and managed to extinguish the blaze, preventing the house from being totally destroyed. During a visit to the area, neighbours spoke little and none on the record. A few had bags packed, apparently getting ready to leave the area.
One resident theorised that the fires are an attempt to rid the community of some individuals by “burning them out”.
Friday’s blaze came just hours after a neighbouring dwelling went up in flames. It was allegedly torched by arsonists early Thursday morning about 5:20. In that incident, three adults and two children were left homeless. There were no injuries reported.
On Friday, the air in the community was thick with tension, residents clearly on edge.
"It looks like I have to sleep somewhere else tonight because I don't know if my place might be the next target," said one man.
Councillor Kerry Thomas, in whose Mount Salem Division the community falls, said the fires have fuelled fear already being experienced after recent murders.
"It's having a similar impact; it's just an escalation of one thing added to the next so the tension is extremely high. I haven't gotten the full details of exactly what is happening now but whatever is happening, it's not good and the residents are extremely fearful of what is going to happen next," he told OBSERVER ONLINE.
He noted that the bloodletting and alleged arson attacks are happening despite the area being declared a Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO).
The Government declares an area a ZOSO if there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is "rampant criminality, gang warfare, escalating violence and murder and the threat to the rule of law and public order."