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Fire victims in need of homes


Fire victims in need of homes

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?CHARRED DEBRIS, the smell of decay and lost dreams are all that is left of five houses along President Kennedy Drive, St Michael, after a fire on Wednesday.
?Four of the houses involved had been burnt to their foundations while one still had its frame partially intact but the insides uninhabitable. Three other houses had sustained damage.
?Hours after the blaze, embers could still be seen among the nearby mahogany trees smouldering and the wind was blowing them among the graves of Westbury Cemetery so it is unknown whether the trees will eventually have to be removed.
Initial reports from Acting Chief Fire Officer Errol Maynard stated four houses destroyed and two damaged, as carried in yesterday’s DAILY NATION, but a subsequent check with the fire service yesterday revealed the numbers were higher.
The WEEKEND NATION revisited the site to speak to a few of the victims and find out what their next step was going to be. Three of them – Junette Harper, David Bennett and Marian Wickham – were in the nearby Thomas Gap area across the street.
Wickham said her home as well as her mother Norma Best’s was destroyed, neither having insurance coverage. She said they were both staying with family in New Orleans but she was not sure how long that arrangement would last, adding she liked to lime in Thomas Gap. She was critical of the Welfare Department.
“I went to the Welfare Department this morning but they are no help to us. They had us up there all day and all they give me was a $100 voucher. They told me I have to go to the fire people and the police and get a statement to bring back and I have to go see MP Michael Carrington [today],” she said.
Wickham said she would like if they could rebuild on the same spot, especially her elderly mother, who had lived on the spot for more than 40 years and wanted to return there.
?In comparison, Junette Harper had lived in the area for a short time, renting her home for the past four years. She said it was thanks to the efforts of the young men in the area that anything was saved at all.
“I was sleeping and they come and ‘brek’ down the door and tell me ‘fire, fire!’ and then they came in and start throwing out things,” she said, adding a bed, a stove, a room divider and three televisions were saved.
Harper said she was staying with a friend in Thomas Gap but really wanted to find somewhere else to live.
David Bennett was staying with a friend and said the clothes he was wearing were provided by another friend as he lost everything.
“I was at work when a partner of mine call me and give me the sad news. I came here straight and it was chaos; it raised my pressure and I had to go to the clinic but I couldn’t get a prescription because I didn’t have any ID. I lost everything; the only thing I had was what I was wearing,” he said.
Bennett said he now had to start from scratch but was seeking legal advice over the possibility of rebuilding on the spot as the land he had been living on for the past 20 years was not his and he had been paying rent for it.
?The cause of the fire is still under investigation.