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Family of 18 homeless after fire razes house
Five-month-old Keshawn Kinsale’s family of 18 had to huddle on three twin-sized mattresses on the floor of an activity centre last night, after their home was destroyed by fire on Monday.Keshawn’s grandfather Desmond Jaiseree and his family slept at the La Costena Activity Centre, in the Siparia constituency of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, with nothing but the clothes that had been given to them by neighbours.
Wearing a glum expression and clothed in a green track pants, Jaiseree, 36, waited outside a neighbour’s home as fire prevention officers and Cepep workers inspected the rubble where his two-storey home once stood at Dil Mohammed Trace, Penal Rock Road. Jaiseree lived there with his wife Stacey, mother, brother, sister, his three children and his baby grandson Keshawn, his sister’s three children and his brother’s five children. The children’s ages range from five months to 18 years old.
Recalling the incident, Jaiseree said he was sitting on the front steps of his home while everyone else was inside. Shortly after 5.30 pm, he said, his wife Stacey, who had been downstairs, ran outside when she saw smoke coming from the back bedroom on the upper floor. Rushing to the bedroom, Jaiseree saw the room was engulfed in flames.
“When I went to the back room, I saw the fire and it was big already. I came outside on the steps and called some guys and asked them for assistance to out the fire, but by the time they reached upstairs, the fire was just rolling against the galvanise. “Everyone else ran into the yard and my family was downstairs so I just ran in and got everybody out and tried to go back inside to see what documents I could have saved. By the time I reached back inside, the whole ceiling over my kitchen fell in, so I forgot about that.”
He said the damage was estimated at $300,000, and the children would not be able to attend school because their schoolbooks, uniforms and clothing were also destroyed. He suspects an electrical problem caused the fire. Misfortune seems to follow the family, as Jaiseree said they spent Christmas Day sweeping muddy floodwaters from their home, which resulted in $20,000 worth of damage to property, furniture and appliances.
“All the kids are going to school and we were not able to save anything. All we have is the clothes on our back—and that is not even ours, people just gave that to us yesterday evening. “We just need somewhere to stay because it is just not one or two of us that we can stay by a family’s house. We just need somewhere to stay until better could be done.”
Jaiseree said a committee member from the village council gave them permission to stay at the community centre, but it does not have a bathroom. “School is going to close so it will be a little easier for the while, until we can get a little stuff to get them for school.” Adding to his woes is the fact that Jaiseree is unemployed and lives on a disability grant, because of a spinal injury he suffered in a motorcycle accident in 2008. His sister Sharon also receives public assistance grants.
“I suffered a chip on my lower spine and twist on my upper spine, so I can’t stand too long or lift anything heavy. My mom is also on disability grants and my sister’s children are on public assistance, so there is nobody here with a big bank account. Right now we are just living by the grace of God.” Anyone willing to assist the family can contact them at 345-9425, 342-7286 or 342-6403.