Devastation as fire sweeps through section of Matthews Lane

Devastation as fire sweeps through section of Matthews Lane

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

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A blanket of smoke permeated the market district in downtown Kingston yesterday as vendors who said they lost their livelihood in a fire which started early morning pondered their next move.

The fire, which took 45 firefighters more than seven hours to extinguish, destroyed a number of stalls on Matthews Lane, a few steps away from the Redemption Market that was also destroyed by fire on June 11, 2017.

M&M Hanna Sales Co Ltd Textile Wholesale, too, was destroyed by the blaze.

A firefighter who was injured during the operation was taken to hospital where he was treated and later released.

Acting Senior Deputy Superintendent Horace Thomas, officer in charge of operations for the Kingston and St Andrew Division at the Jamaica Fire Brigade, told the Jamaica Observer that firefighters from Trench Town and York Park fire stations responded to a call at 2:58 am that a building and stalls were on fire.

However, their colleagues at Stony Hill, Port Royal and Half- Way-Tree fire stations had to be called in when the first team got to the location and saw the magnitude of the fire.

“We subsequently brought the fire under control. However, based on the nature of what is burning it took some time to cool down,” Thomas explained.

He said that it was difficult to save the fabric inside the building.

“The way in which the fabrics were compacted, it placed a premium on security; sometimes in placing a premium on security safety is compromised and so it gave us a challenge in accessing the building initially,” Thomas said.

Yesterday morning, vendor Andrea Gordon, who has been plying her trade on Matthews Lane for more than two decades, sat on a stall as the blaze swept over her merchandise stored at a barrel warehouse on Princess Street which was also destroyed.

“Every God almighty ting mi lose. See di place up deh suh all now a smoke; we cyaah even enter,” the mother of five told the Observer.

Gordon, who said she was at her home in Parade Gardens, better known as Southside, in Kingston Central, when she heard the news of the fire, said she was hoping to have saved some of her merchandise.

“When mi get di call mi hear seh di whole a Matthews Lane under fire, mi not even brush mi teeth [as] mi affi run out ’bout two o’clock and all now di fire cyaah contain,” she said.

“Everything gone and di firefighter ago tell me seh the store more important dan we higgler and we a pay tax; we a pay tax. Everything gone fi everybody might as well me dead. Dem a pay more attention to round deh so (Princess Street),” she complained.

Her claim was subsequently rubbished by Thomas: “We give priority to all incidents because we are agents of the State and so we do not discriminate whenever we make any response. We don’t care whichever side of the political divide or socio-economic backgrounds persons are from, our duty is to save lives and protect property.

Another vendor, Desmond Clarke, who claimed he was a victim of the fire that destroyed Redemption Market two years ago, said it did not make any sense for him to visit the location immediately when he heard about the nature of the fire.

A woman who gave her name as Donna was uncertain how she would recover from the devastation.

“I have two children in high school and is back to school time [soon] suh mi nuh know what’s next,” she said.

The estimated cost of damage by the fire was not ascertained.

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