WHAT started as a small kitchen fire in Edan’s Centre, San Fernando yesterday shut down almost half the city as firefighters battled the blaze for hours, barring pedestrian and vehicular traffic at the top of High Street. The building’s manager, Ashnool Mohammed, said the fire started around 10 am in a kitchen in the food court.
Mohammed said he learnt of the fire when he saw staff fleeing outside. “I was dealing with something downstairs and when I went upstairs, I saw people running out of the building and somebody told me, ‘Fire! Fire!’ so I ran outside as well,” he said. He contacted the Mon Repos Fire Station and officers responded within minutes.
San Fernando police assisted, blocking off the streets while the firefighters worked. Employees of the 20 stores in the building, as well as from Republic Bank next door, were evacuated. Staff and students from a nearby preschool were also evacuated.
Mohammed said he had been managing the building for just over two months and was not in charge when there was a fire on April 2, 2015. In that incident, the blaze was quickly extinguished and business was able to resume in surrounding buildings within hours.
Yesterday the barricades – manned by police – and the thick, black smoke from the building forced many businesses to close early. Linda’s Bakery, RIK Bookstore, Miguel Moses and several jewellers were closed by 2 pm. Those who were out and about on the city streets seemed drawn to the scene and many people remained for hours watching the firemen work.
Speaking to Newsday by phone, president of the San Fernando Business Association, Daphne Bartlett praised the fire officers. She said business was affected throughout the day and many chose to close their stores and send home their employees, as the smoke affected many people. She reiterated her previous call to the TTFS to use water from the nearby King’s Wharf in the case of fires on High Street.