Fogarty’s fire: Fire Chief praises crew for averting repeat of 1945 Great Fire
By Kurt Campbell
Fire Chief Marlon Gentle on Friday praised the quick response of firefighters in containing a fire at the decades-old William Fogarty’s building located on Water Street, Georgetown.
The fire was contained within minutes after the arrival of responders from the Central, Alberttown and Ruimveldt Fire Stations. This averted a more frightening situation – a repeat of the 1945 Great Fire which wiped out the entire ward.
History would recall that on February 23, 1945, the Great Fire, as it came to be known, devastated the commercial heart of the capital, and consumed a host of historical and architectural buildings which had given the city its aesthetic flair.
In addition, it laid waste the RA&CS building and its unique collection of books and papers pertaining to the past of this country.
Beginning in what was then Bookers Drug Store, the fire raged virtually unimpeded for five hours, incinerating 23 buildings, damaging seven others, and scorching several more.
Around 9:30 am on Friday, January 8, 2021, when a call was placed to the fire service informing of a fire at the Forgery’s buildings, Gentle said everything was done to ensure this was not repeated.
So much so that the fireboat was dispatched for the first time along with fire tenders and firefighters from three fire stations in the city.
Gentle said when the first responders arrived on the ground just before 10:00 am, they encountered heavy smoke conditions in the bottom flat of the building, emanating mainly from the kitchen of the historic Rose Bud Café.
Firefighters immediately sprung into quick attack mode and moved in to extinguish the fire that had begun spreading in the ceiling to the business area of the building.
The building houses a number of commercial businesses.
The Fire was isolated, suppressed, and within less than an hour, fully extinguished.
Firefighters spent some time on the ground, along with the support of the Guyana Police Force, ensuring that no looting took place and the building was properly ventilated before store owners and employees were allowed back in.
In the final analysis, it is believed the fire started from an electrical extractor fan in the kitchen.
An anxious Sandra Narine who operates the SVS Pharmacy and owns a storage bond in the Fogarty’s building said the fire evoked memories of another fire in which she lost her husband.
She recalled smelling smoke upon her arrival at work on Friday morning but said she disregarded it since there are usually persons smoking marijuana in the area on a daily basis.
Narine was also in high praise for the quick response of the fire service in the congested and business downtown area.
The Traffic Chief said this is a timely reminder that the Central Fire Station needs to be relocated from the busy Stabroek Market area and more needs to be done to remove impediments to the fire service response in the commercial district.