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Fire chief: Code a must

Mike King

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STRESSING that the time has come for the establishment of a building code, Chief Fire Officer Wilfred Marshall says that if the burning Campus Trendz clothing store had an alternative exit, all six women trapped there would still be alive.The six perished in the blaze at the one-door store in Tudor Street on Friday night.“It is unacceptable to have stores with just one exit,” Marshall said. “In this day and age, we should not have businesses that don’t have an alternative exit. We must have a building code. There is a draft but it hasn’t gone to Parliament. “If there was an alternative exit, those girls would have been alive today. A building code must be established sooner rather than later,” he said. “The time has come for building codes to be law.” Marshall told the SUNDAY SUN it was frightening to imagine how many lives would have been lost had the fire occurred at Christmas time. Member of Parliament for The City Patrick Todd echoed Marshall’s sentiments. “Public safety and the safety of the employees of these stores must be paramount and we must stop at nothing to ensure that these best practices are rigorously adhered to and implemented.” Friday’s fire, ignited by two robbers, who tossed what may have been a molotov cocktail into the store, claimed the lives of Tiffany Harding, Kellisha Olliviere, Shanna Griffith, Pearl Cornelius, Kelly-Ann Welch and Nikita Belgrave.  “The fire started in the area by the entrance, so they retreated to the back of the building,” the fire chief said. “They couldn’t get out because there is no exit at the back. “We had to burst two holes at the back that is how we made an entrance and found the bodies. We couldn’t enter from the front because of the ferocity of the heat.” Marshall, 56, said it was one of the most gruesome fires he had seen in his 36 years of firefighting. “In terms of firefighting, not one of the worst, but probably so in terms of loss of life. One of the challenges we had was the design of the building. It was heavily compartmentalised, therefore we couldn’t get access to the rear of the building. “We had to push the heat back through the only open area we had. So the same entrance that we were working through, the fire was making its exit . . . .” Marshall said the Barbados Fire Service got the call to the blaze on Friday at 7:04 p.m.Four water tenders, the rescue tender and a hydraulic ladder truck responded. The Fire Service returned yesterday morning and completed mopping up operations by afternoon.