MONTEGO BAY, St James - St James fire chief Acting Superintendent Winsome Grant has called for the training of market vendors as fire wardens as part of efforts to reduce the likelihood of fires at markets.
The superintendent made the call after fire destroyed three shops at the Charles Gordon Market in Montego Bay, St James, on Sunday.
“This could be a joint stakeholder initiative with the [St James] Municipal Corporation to have wardens throughout the market and to have those who are not wardens to get the one-hour training,” she remarked.
The aim, she stressed, would be to sensitise the individuals about the dangers and risks associated with fires.
“Even though there are persons already trained such as the municipal police, it would be good to have different persons trained so that they are aware of their surroundings and to be careful of how they go about their business,” she argued.
As an added feature, she noted, these trained individuals would be able to impact their communities with the training as well.
According to reports, about 10:00 am on Sunday, fire was seen coming from a section of the market and an alarm was raised. However, before the blaze could be brought under control, three shops, which included a cook shop, a clothing store, a space that was being used as a storeroom, and a section of the main market building were affected.
Mayor of Montego Bay Leroy Williams, who visited the facility on Monday to get a first-hand look at the damage, announced that a full investigation would be undertaken.
“We have to do a thorough investigation to ascertain what took place. For example, I could not say who are the owners of the shops, but if the shops were built by the St James Municipal Corporation, certainly they will be replaced, and if they were built by the persons who occupied the shops, then I'm sure some assistance will be given to them,” the mayor remarked.
A man, who gave his name as Hiya, who was involved in a clean-up exercise at the facility on Monday, told the Jamaica Observer West that he was in close proximity to the area when the fire started.
“You know mi deh here yesterday [Sunday], mi and the management and when mi deh ya mi and the boss a discuss bout the work… we there and talking, we only hear a little something like an explosion, like something woulda drop down and by we turn round a look, a fire we see,” he said.
Ermina Knight, a clothes vendor, whose shop was among those damaged, said she was at her home in Portmore when she received the call about the fire.
“Mi did deh a mi yard, a Portmore mi live inno and a mi friend call me make mi know what is going on and mi come back down this morning [Monday],” she told the Observer West. She added that a lot of her goods were damaged but expressed appreciation to individuals who pitched in to help in saving some of her merchandise.
And Acting Superintendent Grant was full of praise for the firefighters who fought the blaze, highlighting that they managed to save over $170 million in property from being destroyed.