A warehouse and office building used by beer manufacturing company, Carib Brewery, was completely destroyed by a raging bush fire in Mt Lambert yesterday afternoon.
According to reports, the fire started around midday at a strip of bushes which separates the pavement from businesses and homes on the north side of the Eastern Main Road.
The fire quickly spread to stacks of wooden pallets and plastic bottle cases being stored on the building's compound and then to the building itself. No one was injured as staff in the building noticed the smoke and were able to evacuate to an empty lot located next door.
By the time fire officers and tenders from Morvant, San Juan, Tunapuna and Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, arrived on the scene, the entire building was already engulfed in flames.
Some of the officers were seen removing unburnt pallets and cases surrounding the building while their colleagues battled to extinguish the blaze which threatened to spread to the adjacent Mt Lambert Community Centre and other surrounding businesses.
It took fire officers almost two hours to extinguish most of the fire using water and foam, but by then the roof of the building had already collapsed and its contents completely destroyed.
In a brief interview, Assistant Chief Fire Officer Siewnarine Ramsaran confirmed that the incident was caused by a bush fire which was possibly ignited by a discarded cigarette butt.
Ramsaran said that the damage could have been mitigated if inflammable material which fuelled the fire had been stored away from the bushes.
"We advise everyone to practise good housekeeping. In an area like this we would advise to place a fire trap next to your property so it will not come into your building. Even though it is not your land next door you keep it clean so it will not affect your property in the case of a fire," Ramsaran said.
When asked how the Fire Service was coping with numerous bush fires during the dry season, Ramsaran said most could be avoided if people followed the law.
"During the bush fire season you can not light any fires outdoors unless it is for cooking or if you have a fire permit. The law is specific and people have been arrested for that," Ramsaran said as he noted that the service will continue to be vigilant in its public awareness campaigns during the season.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Carib Brewery managing director Gabriel Faria said that the building was not owned by the company but instead was a rented property used to store raw materials.
He said that only a handful of staff worked there and they escaped without injury. When asked to estimate the extent of the damage, Faria said that it could not be done up to late yesterday as company officials had not had an opportunity to visit the site since fire officers were still on the scene.
Three people have been killed by bush fires this year. On Good Friday, senior forestry officer, Keith Campbell, 54, died after being severely burnt in a bush fire off Lady Chancellor Road, St Ann's. Three of his colleagues who were assisting in extinguishing the bush fire were also burnt but survived.
Last Wednesday, nine-year-old Hezekiah Hospedales was burnt to death when a bush fire spread to his San Juan home. His mother Shaliser Theodore-Hospedales was severely burnt as she attempted to save her son and one-year-old daughter Rekeia Bruce. Their neighbours Phillip and Jeremiah Jones intervened and managed to rescue an injured Theodore-Hospedales and Bruce, who was unscathed. Theodore-Hospedales succumbed to her injuries at the San Fernando General Hospital three days later.