There were three fires this past week, and while it is not unusual for Guyana to experience fires, it is unusual for there to be so many in different parts of the city almost simultaneously. The most devastating was the first that occurred in Pike Street, Kitty.
That fire destroyed four homes and left behind some heart-wrenching images. I saw a little girl become hysterical when she realized the effect of the fire. I looked at the video and I felt very emotional. There was this little girl crying and asking her mother about the future.
“Mommy, wha we gun do? When we gun sleep? How I gun go to school?” the child asked before becoming hysterical. To compound the issue, she had to watch the destruction.
Then there was this boy who could only stand and cry. It took Minister Simona Broomes to comfort him and take him to her home. She later said that the child should not be made to stand and watch the horror of losing his home.
Fires have to start somewhere and for some reason. In this case I learnt that the fire started at a location where the occupants use drugs, steal electricity and just about every other amenity. It is believed that one drug user, caught up in his activity, started the fire.
Had the blaze been confined to one house, the drug house, the situation would have been acceptable. But there it was that the blaze roused so many others from their needed sleep, then proceeded to destroy the location where they had been sleeping.
People in the neighbourhood said that they repeatedly contacted the police about the situation, but the police have no power of eviction. They can hope to conduct raids and discover the drugs. But even here, the people contended that there were members of the police force who visited the location for anything other than for legal purposes.
The other fires did leave people homeless, two of them elderly people. That fire was believed to be electrical in origin. I am unsure what caused the third. What I do know is that the latter fires were confined to the location where they started.
Many of us are not keen on insurance, so that when fire strikes we lose everything and are hard pressed to replace them. I remember one case of a woman reporting that the fire claimed everything that she ever worked for. I remember her saying that her home had everything.
There is no one who could say that they are not scared of fires. Most of us have seen the devastating effects. There was one fire at a location near to La Parfaite Harmonie. This teacher had to travel to the city, thus leaving some children home. She returned home to see the house ablaze and some children trapped inside.
Then there is the case of the man on the Essequibo Coast whose partner decided that she had had enough of the violent relationship, so she opted to move on. This man followed her to her new location and tossed an incendiary device on the bed in which she was sleeping. This woman is still in hospital, badly disfigured at 17.
There was another case in Sophia where a man torched the home, forcing some people to jump through the window to escape. He escaped, but was eventually caught. Sadly, we reporters do not follow up on such matters, so I cannot talk about the outcome.
I live in a wooden home and I take every precaution to preserve it. Above all, I have insured the property. I remember teaching my children about the use of matches and about fires. When one of my daughters was about a year old, certainly younger than two, like children, she would reach out to anything attractive, and fires are indeed attractive.
I would say to her, “Hot.” Initially that meant nothing to her, so I let her touch one of the incandescent bulbs in the home and said, “Hot.” She repeated the word and immediately made the connection between the spoken word and its meaning. She does not remember the incident, but she knows what hot is.
Years later she was one of the most cautious persons lighting the stove. It was the same with my other children. They are adults today and they certainly do not play with fire. And so it was that when I taught, I ensured that there were fire drills at the school.
In this country we all want somewhere to rest our heads, a place to call home. The effect of losing that comfort cannot be explained. Being displaced is one of the worst things that can happen to an individual. I can associate with the plight of the refugees. In some countries, they leave their homes in droves seeking to preserve their lives. That must be a horrible decision to make.
And so we have the Venezuelans coming across the borders. Indeed we are a poor country, but there was a time when we ran to just about every country that would accept us. It is our turn to be kind to the refugees. We cannot set up the large camps as in some countries, so fortunately those who come make their own way, as we did when we went to those countries.
The courts must act on cases of illegal entry, but I believe that at this time we must exercise some leniency. One official in Region One actually complained about the rapid depletion of drugs because of the Venezuelans. Such is life. At this time I am certain we can afford the extra quota of pharmaceuticals.
Thankfully, we are not a war-ravaged country and our people have to flee to lands unknown. But we do impose hardships on ourselves, as was the case of the fire that destroyed those homes in Pike Street, Kitty.
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