Updated: San Pedro rises strong from the ashes

Posted on Updated on

TV Newscast from Channel 5 Belize with Fire Chief Ted Smith, from June 27, on the San Pedro Town fire. His comments are reminescent of the famous Donald Rumsfeld explanation of the Iraq War problems: “As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

Time for a volunteer fire department to work beside the pros?

June 30, 2016

Having a national fire department, like a national police department, can be both good and bad. On the one hand, the entire country is served. On the other, it is sometimes served poorly in certain regions.

Ambergris Caye has certainly outgrown its two battered engines and small cadre of professional firefighters. But as Fire Chief Ted Smith points out, in a country with limited resources — you can expect limited resources. How many more times can citizens be expected to save the day with the heroics of the bucket brigades?

Or even our own dedicated firemen — with such limited resources and manpower —  what happens the next time a fire erupts behind the commercial canyon walls crammed full of wooden structures in our very dense downtown? What if they can’t get access?

A friend wrote to me asking about firefighting infrastructure — you know, fire hydrants. We may never reach that level of sophistication but how about firefighting cisterns?

When San Francisco rebuilt after the massive earthquake of 1906, the city built cisterns into the roads at key intersections. So much of the city was leveled by fire because there was no water to douse the flames. The cisterns ensured a supply of water for firefighters, should disaster strike again.

Early Monday morning, firefighters were scrambling to find wells to tap into with the bone-dry pumper truck. If there were cisterns at our key intersections, in our most crowded parts of San Pedro Town perhaps the story of the next fire would not be so devastating.

Additionally, given the limited resources of the national fire department, is it time to establish a volunteer fire department that works in unison with the professionals? I know that is a touchy subject but San Pedro’s citizens have shown time and again that they have the heart, courage and fortitude to face-down conflagrations with 5-gallon buckets of water. And I’m pretty sure there are enough retired firemen on this island to form the training nucleus for a volunteer corps.

Beyond that, once we have cared for all the victims of this fire, I would love to see the island’s fundraising expertise turned to supporting an improved professional fire department and the volunteer firefighting corps. (Well, and support our PolyClinic with massive infusions of fundraising love — but that is another issue for another day.)

When asked if Ambergris Caye would ever get the firefighting support it needs, Fire Chief Smith gave a flat out and honest no. “This is Belize,” he said. That wasn’t cynical, and it wasn’t dismissive. He was being honest and pragmatic.

This is Belize. Resources from the central government will always be limited — especially when the natin is funding the Ashcroft Alliance to the tune of half-a-billion dollars for BTL (again, a whole other story) — but island spirit and sense of community are boundless.

We don’t have to accept the realities of a government drained as dry as our pumper truck.

Centralized cisterns and a volunteer firefighting corps?

We can do this!

How different the burned area of San Pedro Town looks today. These images are from the San Pedro Red Cross this morning.
How different the burned area of San Pedro Town looks today. These images are from the San Pedro Red Cross this morning. See more images here.  And don’t forget, today is the Red Cross telethon and disaster relief fund-raiser on Reef Radio & TV. Detals below; just scroll down!

      ******      ******      ******

June 29, 2016

Cleanup on Middle Street in San Pedro Town, Belize, continues today after Monday’s devastating fire. More than 60 volunteers showed up this morning to help clear debris from the area where 11 shops, restaurants and homes once stood.

And life goes on. The annual fishermen’s breakfast and boat parade were this morning. A stage is being built and chairs set out in front of the Roman Catholic Church to celebrate the annual feast of Saint Peter, our community’s namesake, with a Mass tonight by the Bishop.

Across town at Hon. Louis Sylvestre Sports Complex an even grander stage is being built for the Dia de San Pedro celebration, with entertainment, music and fireworks planned. Entertainment will continue through Saturday with big name bands on the stage each night. (Here’s the full schedule.)

Behind the Sylvestre field stage is the itinerant carnival where so many people were enjoying themselves when the fire broke out. Scores of revelers abandoned the ferris wheel and whirley rides and streamed into town to join the bucket brigades which yet again saved a piece of San Pedro.

Below is today’s roundup of stories, messages, alerts, photo galleries and information from around the island. I’ll keep adding to the digest as “stuff” is posted. There are also links to roundups from Monday and Tuesday and a collection of photo galleries shot by professional and amateur photographers.

If you see something is missing, IM me on Facebook or e-mail me at robertj.hawkins2012@gmail.com. Bookmark and check back!

Monday: 88 people homeless, 11 buildings destroyed in San Pedro fire: Police say it is arson.

Tuesday: Cleanup of massive San Pedro fire begins

Amber Edwards writes an inspiring first-hand account of yesterday's clean-up and recovery efforts in San Pedro. It is a must read.
Ambergris Today writer Amber Edwards writes an inspiring first-hand account of yesterday’s clean-up and recovery efforts in San Pedro. It is a must read.

This is San Pedro strong

By Amber Edwards

It’s been on everyones mind lately and it weighs more than most Sanpedranos can bare. A fire, one night, 11 buildings, 27 families, 88 people who lost it all.

Immediately after our first news report the outpour of concerned calls and messages overwhelmed our phones, websites and social media and we all knew there was work to be done by all of us. I posted a flyer on Facebook the evening of the fire thinking if a handful of volunteers came to help we would do everything in our power to assist in the cleanup of the site.

You amazed me San Pedro! Forty-five of us met at Estel’s on Tuesday morning to assist in the cleanup and we were only one of the many groups who volunteered.  (Read more)

*******      *******      *******

Source of the fire determined, cause still uncertain

From Channel5Belize (June 28, 2016)

While San Pedro police have detained one man pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, fire officials are yet to determine the cause of the blaze.  According to Fire Chief Ted Smith, the department is working closely with the National Forensics and Science Services to ascertain if an accelerant was used to light the fire.

“What we have so far from the investigative team is that the fire originated from the southeastern corner of the structure that belonged to August Tabony, where the fire originated from.  That is what we have so far,” says Ted Smith, Fire Chief, National Fire Service

(Read the entire transcript here.)

Tough questions from Channel 7 Belize to the fire department

Why Only One Fire Truck And Two Firemen?

From 7 News Belize (June 28, 2016)

Fire Chief Ted Smith
Fire Chief Ted Smith

And so while that is the fire and the aftermath, what about the firefight? Did the Fire Department fail to contain the fire effectively?

There was only one fire truck working and only two fire men on duty. When they arrived at the scene, they found an unoccupied two storey wooden structure on fire. The bad part was that it was surrounded by other wooden buildings – which was a recipe for the disaster that unfolded.

The fire truck quickly expended the 300 gallons of water it had in the tank, and then had to activate mobile pumps to source water from the sea. That’s more than 15 minutes down time – which is when the fire quickly spread.

We spoke to the Fire chief today about what went wrong, and what was unavoidable. (Read the full  transcript here.)

Catch a movie this weekend, help the cause

Paradise Theater is donating the proceeds from all its movies this weekend, plus anything tossed in its donation bucket, to the San Pedro Fire Relief Fund

What’s showing? At 7 p.m. “Equals” and the Lego animantion feature “Justice League: Gotham City Break Out.”  At 9 p.m. the features are “Batman vs. Superman” and “Green Room.”

In the 2015 sci-fi film “Equals,” two people in a world that has lost the ability to feel, regain emotions and fall in love. And that’s a problem for the rest of society. In the blockbuster “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” the world’s greatest superheroes work out their issues in a most violent confrontation. Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams co-star. In “Green Room” a punk rock band must take on a gang of skinheads after witnessing a murder.

Numerous ways to help financially

The San Pedro Lions Club is the central collection point for all cash donations — as well as for food, clothing, toiletries and household goods at the Lions Den on Front Street. They are working with the San Pedro Food Bank, San Pedro Red Cross and scores of volunteers to ensure aid gets to the people who need it the most.

In town? You can write a check donation and make it payable to: San Pedro Lions Club

Out of town? Abroad? You can wire transfer money directly into the club’s account at Atlantic Bank Account (Account
#211 3829 02). Lion’s Club phone number is 011-501-226-2477.

You can also make a donation through any USA Lions Club, and mark it for San Pedro Lions Club relief fund.

The Southern Ambergris Caye Neighborhood Watch has set up and easy and fast way to donate through their webpage: https://sacnw.org/wp/product/fire-victim-assistance/. All monetary donations received will be forward to the San Pedro Lions Club chapter.

Also, donations can be sent through Western Union to the Belize Red Cross – Attention Director General Mrs. Lily Bowman. Purpose: Benefit for San Pedro Fire Affected Persons.

San Pedro Emergency Operations Committee and National Emergency Management Organization are “asking all members of the public to discontinue from creating individual fundraising profiles, since it will only open the door for confusion and unaccountability.”

Reef Radio and TV Telethon on Thursday

The Red Cross has organized a Reef Radio and TV Telethon for tomorrow, June 30, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The program is already a massive success: Atlantic Bank and Belize Bank have both pledged $5,000 — which makes for a great start!

Tune in to 92.3 FM Radio or Channel 20 on your television.

If you want to help,  volunteers are asked to show up at the station’s Pescador Drive offices between 6:30 and 7 a.m. for the morning shift and 11:30 a.m. to noon for the afternoon show. Volunteers will take donations over the phone. Others will hit the street with buckets to solicit donations.

Clothing drive a massive success; let the sale begin!

More clothing than could possible be used has been donated to the fire victims. The good news is that none of it will go to waste.

On Thursday, June 30, and Friday July 1, there will be a clothing sale like San Pedro has never seen before,  starting at 1 p.m.  All proceeds from the sale will go to the fire victims fund.

Buy local, share local — win-win

Food is still a critical need and will be for some time to come. Here is what the Food Bank and Lions Club suggest, if you want to help: “Please consider going to Linos Meat Store and purchasing gift certificates we can give the families! This will help Lino’s increase their sales, since they were affected by the fire, and will help all of the families get chicken and meat!

Lino’s is located on the northern-most corner of the Pescador Drive block that burned to the ground. Their building suffered heat and fire damage but remains intact.

Photo roundups

The Healing Power of a Good Story and Sharing (Photo by Karen Brodie)
The Healing Power of a Good Story and Sharing. See more photos by Karen Brodie here.

5 thoughts on “Updated: San Pedro rises strong from the ashes

    Joan Pedrotti said:
    June 29, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Made my donation on the Southern Ambergris Caye Neighborhood Watch link. It was very easy … and rewarding. Anyone who loves to visit this wonderful place, and enjoy all it has to offer, please consider making a donation. Every little bit helps!


    Debbie Styles said:
    June 29, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    Also made my donation through SACNW website. Super easy. Wish I could do more but that’s the easiest way from Oklahoma.


    […] an especially eventful week on Ambergris Caye, with the San Pedro LobsterFest, the weeklong feast of Saint Peter, a huge downtown fire, and a […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s