Moun­tain View EX­PLO­SION!

Res­i­dents mum after five hurt in fire at il­le­gal cook­ing gas op­er­a­tion

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Christo­pher Serju Gleaner Writer

THE UN­WILL­ING­NESS of res­i­dents to pro­vide any in­for­ma­tion has stymied the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of firefighters who re­sponded to a call at 2:40 yes­ter­day af­ter­noon about a house on fire at 3 Jac­ques Av­enue (off Jac­ques Road) in east­ern Kingston.

The fire, caused by an ex­plo­sion at what po­lice sub­se­quently con­firmed to be an il­le­gal LPG re­fill­ing plant, re­sulted in five peo­ple sus­tain­ing third-de­gree burns. At least two of the vic­tims are be­lieved to be chil­dren.

At 2:42 p.m., firefighters from the Rolling Town Fire De­part­ment, who were first on the scene, sent a re­quest for all avail­able units to respond.

They had come upon a scene where sev­eral cook­ing gas cylin­ders filled with propane gas were ex­plod­ing.

This trig­gered a response from York Park (two units) and Half-Way Tree, re­sult­ing in a com­bined 25 firefighters from four trucks en­gag­ing in con­trol­ling the ex­plo­sive sit­u­a­tion.

In ad­di­tion to the many 25lb and 100lb cylin­ders scat­tered around, two 1,000lb ca­pac­ity cylin­ders were rest­ing in a truck at the back of the house, which, by then, was also ablaze.

As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent Court­ney Thomp­son of the fire brigade told The Gleaner that de­spite the un­ex­pected chal­lenge, the firefighters were equal to the task.

“Be­cause we are pro­fes­sion­als, we

know how to con­tain th­ese fires, and it wasn’t as dif­fi­cult as some may think. We used two large jets (of wa­ter) to con­tain the fire to get it un­der con­trol. The threat is still there, but it’s mi­nor, and we are cool­ing down the cylin­ders to pre­vent the chances of them ig­nit­ing,” Thomp­son ex­plained.

CHAL­LENGE GETTING IN­FOR­MA­TION

How­ever, getting even ba­sic in­for­ma­tion about the oc­cu­pants of the house or type of ac­tiv­ity con­ducted on the premises proved to be much more of a chal­lenge, ac­cord­ing to the se­nior fire­fighter.

“It’s dif­fi­cult be­cause we are try­ing to as­cer­tain in­for­ma­tion and ev­ery­one seems to be dumb, mute. No one seems to be read­ily avail­able to talk about what tran­spired – as if they are hid­ing some­thing. But we are not here to pros­e­cute any­one. All we are here to do is find out how the fire may have started, but ev­ery­one seems to be mute.”

The house, a truck, a mo­tor­bike, and a car parked in the yard were de­stroyed, with a full-grown East In­dian mango tree

also go­ing up in flames, prompt­ing res­i­dents next door to empty the fur­nish­ings from their house in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the fire jump­ing the fence.

The Ja­maica Fire Brigade has put the es­ti­mate of dam­age at $38 mil­lion, with an es­ti­mate of risk at $48 mil­lion.

Ex­plo­sions were so loud that res­i­dents of McGre­gor Gully ran out of their houses, think­ing they were in their com­mu­nity, while res­i­dents in the vicin­ity of the fire re­called how the “ground shake”.

Mean­while, An­drew Swaby, coun­cil­lor for

Vine­yard Town, told The Gleaner that he was just learn­ing of what seemed to be a cook­ing gas re­fill­ing op­er­a­tion, which would have been il­le­gal in the res­i­den­tial area.

He de­scribed it as a “bad sit­u­a­tion”, es­pe­cially in light of re­ports that two of the five per­sons in­jured dur­ing the ex­plo­sion were chil­dren.

“We have to un­der­stand that while things are tough and peo­ple are try­ing in any way to make a money, we can’t put our res­i­dents at risk. I wasn’t aware of this sit­u­a­tion be­fore. Ob­vi­ously, the com­mu­nity was aware, and we have to ed­u­cate peo­ple that ac­tiv­i­ties like this can­not be tol­er­ated in com­mu­ni­ties,” he said.

PHOTOS BY NOR­MAN GRINDLEY/CHIEF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

A fire­fighter car­ries out cool­ing-down op­er­a­tions at a lo­cal cook­ing gas op­er­a­tion be­hind a home on Jac­ques Av­enue in Moun­tain View, St An­drew, yes­ter­day.

An ex­plo­sion oc­curred at an il­le­gal cook­ing gas op­er­a­tion be­hind a house on Jac­ques Av­enue, leav­ing the home and a truck de­stroyed by fire.

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