A disastrous fire incident hit Central Monrovia early Tuesday Morning, 20 February, burning three stores and destroying nearby residences on Randall Street in spite of a fleet of firefighter trucks dispatched to the scene by state institutions buttressed by UNMIL Fire Service truck.
The situation immediately claimed the attention of Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard – Taylor and the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill, who both joined other government officials and citizens at the scene Tuesday, while firefighters struggled to control the situation for several hours.
The Liberia National Fire Service, Liberia National Police Fire Service Division, National Port Authority Fire Service Division, Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company Fire Service Division and UNMIL Fire Service Division were joined by other private entities with water tankers in the fight to extinguish the fire that began at about 7a.m. and continued up to 12:45 p.m.
It was a scene sorrow as citizens and residents trooped to the area and stood behind police barricade to witness firefighters battle with the disaster which saw stores and residences blazed in flames.
Affected entities include Power Tech Incorporation, Stop and Shop Supermarket, Eagle Electronics Incorporation, several small spare parts shops and residences, which burned for over six hours before firefighters took complete control of the situation on Randall Street.
Cause of the fire was not immediately established, but the management of Power Tech Incorporated promised to get back to the press to say what caused the fire.
However, some eyewitnesses say they first noticed heavy smoke before the fire became uncontrollable. GN Bank, which is very close to the Eagle Electronic Store took all its belongings and moved up to its Broad Street head office when the flames intensified.
One eye witness James Laima, claims the fire broke up at 7a.m. from the Power Tech Incorporation machine room at the back of the main store before spreading to other buildings around it.
“I’m selling watches here where I’m standing. We came this morning and started setting up our tables; while in the process, we started seeing smoke coming from behind the Power Tech Building. We all got concerned and tried to go there, but before we got there, the fire took over the machine room and right away people started calling fire service,” Laima narrates.
He continues that at first, the assessment team from the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS) showed up at the scene to verify the information and later left, noting that it was at that time that the fire became very uncontrollable.
Another eyewitness only identified as Massa told this paper that huge fire from behind the building affected the homes of some Nigerian nationals who sell gas.
“Since this morning we came out of our houses, we saw smoke and huge fire coming from behind that Power Tech building, and I don’t think it will be easy for the fire service people because the Nigerian people that have these spare parts shops here [are] also selling gas and fuel and they are keeping it in their house behind there from where the fire, that huge smoke coming from,” Massa explains.
Meanwhile, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor extends government’s sympathy to the management of Power Tech and all those who sustain losses. For his part, Power Tech Incorporation Operational Manager Eli Hassan Ghandour, a Lebanese national, says the cause of the fire is unknown.
Last Thursday, fire gutted a home in Paco Island, Congo Town, leaving a couple and three children burnt to death.
By Ben P. Wesee–Edited by Winston W. Parley