Some said 'Satanic forces' were out in full force when fire erupted in a house at Melanie Damishana, East Coast Demerara yesterday afternoon and bad luck bedevilled firefighters racing to help.

The house on fire at Melanie Damishana yesterday.

As the flames raged in the two-flat building, a fire tender responding to the fire call collided with another vehicle, a water pump blew out as firemen hustled to douse the flames, and a backup tender dispatched to the scene overturned on the road.

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The fire destroyed the two-flat building at 374 Area "A" Melanie Damishana, leaving five persons homeless and millions of dollars in losses.

No one was injured in the fire and investigators are looking into reports that the cause of the blaze was not electrical.

The overturned fire tender racing to the scene.

Witnesses said the fire started around 15:30h--16:00h in the front, bottom section of the building that housed Odetta Martin, 31, a Sociology student at the University of Guyana; her sister, Roxanne Greene, 28; Greene's 14-year old daughter Natasha and two boys aged 4 and 5. They saved absolutely nothing.

The Fire Service was summoned but in their attempt to respond, nothing seemed to go well.

The first tender racing to the scene collided with another vehicle on the East Coast Demerara Highway.

Residents said that when the tender eventually arrived, its water supply was used up within one minute, causing the fire fighters to set up a connection to pump water from a nearby trench.

However, as they were about starting up the pump, it blew out, thwarting that effort.

Unable to proceed, the fire fighters radioed base, reported the problem and requested that a backup engine be dispatched to the scene.

There was more misfortune in store for the fire fighters.

Around 17:15h, as the backup fire engine was negotiating the Coldingen/Melanie Damishana turn, it skidded and ended up in the middle of the road upturned.

By then, the fire was raging, and emotions were high among the crowd, upset at a remark by a fireman that the place seemed cursed.

Some villagers claimed that after the firemen's attempt to secure water from the trench failed, one fireman shouted to his colleagues: "This place is a cross man; loose off the hose and leh we go."

With the crowd berating the fire fighters as the house continued to burn, within half an hour they found a solution to the problem and managed to get water through the hoses from a nearby trench. But by then the building was destroyed.

Residents also helped to get the overturned tender back on its wheels.

An elderly neighbour, Mr. McRae, who lives on the northern side of the house destroyed, said he was home when he heard a loud screaming. He said he immediately assumed that the neighbour had received a death message, but when he looked out, the house was on fire.

McRae said he called the Fire Service and the unit at the Enmore sugar estate. Then he called Guyana Power and Light who responded by disconnecting power to the location.

Residents said the owner of the house, Suzie Duncan, lives in Antigua. They said she spent much time and money developing and modifying the building, and only left Guyana about two weeks ago, after making her home what she wanted it to be.

Greene said Duncan had left the house in Odetta Martin's care, and the two sisters and their children occupied the front section.

At the time of the fire, Martin was at UG, but her relatives said they dared not go there to tell her about the disaster.
They said they anticipated that her reaction would not have been good.

 Wednesday, February 21, 2007