Tuesday, September 7, 2004
Fire of unknown origin swept through Robb and Wellington Streets just before dawn yesterday, razing the historic Metropole Cinema and destroying Chetsons Footwear Store and the old CNS Channel Six building that housed Digicom and Gizmos and Gadgets Excel. Eyewitnesses said that the fire started inside the Metropole Cinema at around 03:30 hrs and razed the old wooden building, estimated to have been erected in the 1930s, within 20 minutes.
Chief Fire Officer Lawrence David said that initial reports indicate that the flames caused electrical wires attached to poles near the cinema to spark.
He said that the fire spread via the sparking wires to the former Channel Six office on the southern end of Robb Street and the neighbouring Chetsons store.
The old CNS building was also the home of the owner of CNS Channel Six, Chandra Narine Sharma; and an unusually subdued C.N Sharma yesterday said that he was now homeless.
The popular television station owner heard of his misfortune while on business in New York.
In addition, the fire also damaged the CNS television transmitter, shutting the station down indefinitely.
The Discount Store, on the southern side of the Cinema and Rayon's House of Fashions, on the eastern side of the old CNS building, suffered some damage, while the front wall of Freedom House was scorched.
The owners were unable to estimate the losses, which are likely to run into millions.
The chief fire officer said that the firemen arrived at the scene promptly, after receiving the report at around 03:05 hrs. But he said that by that time, the Metropole Cinema was well alight.
He said that the crewmen lives were endangered by electrical wires, which had snapped from the heat. He said that some of the firefighters even received mild electrical shocks while trying to douse the flames.
But they stuck to their task and were able to contain the fire, he said.
From his estimation, a crew from the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) arrived about 30 minutes after the firefighters.
In addition, he said that the firemen were unable to break into some of the buildings which were on fire because of heavy grill and sheets of metal.
At Freedom House, nearby lampposts ignited and flames began to lick at the front of the PPP headquarters.
In desperation, staffers, equipped with only a garden hose, began to soak the area that was threatened.
Many eyewitnesses said that the firefighters seemed ill equipped to tackle a fire of that magnitude.
Kaieteur News observed that the firefighters had to borrow a torchlight from C.N Sharma's son when entering the CNS building during the early stages of the fire.
Minister of Tourism Manzoor Nadir, who was among other political figures who witnessed the fire, also voiced his criticism.
We have to take stockwe continue to put up with mediocrity, he said.
I saw a pitiful sight at Freedom House, where the staffers were trying to save the building with a garden hose.