Adherence to building codes called for after Regent and King Street fire

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Fire prevention officer, Andrew Holder is pleading with business owners to adhere to the National Building Code of Guyana and the Fire Prevention Act following the most recent fire which occurred on Friday afternoon at a Regent and King Street, Georgetown business, resulting in a significant amount of losses.

According to reports received, a staff attached to D.Singh and Son’s, a variety store located on one of the busiest streets of Georgetown, reported to their 75-year-old boss at around 15:30hrs that a fire had erupted in the backroom of the business, which is used to store goods.

“An alarm was raised and I was across the road and when I came over, some of the staff already had the extinguisher [out] but it was a pretty large fire…the smoke was too much,” Bissoodial Singh, the business owner’s son, said.

As the flames increased, Singh told INews that a bucket brigade was formed by public spirited persons, since the Fire Service was taking some time to arrive.

However, upon their arrival, the fire fighters managed to save a large portion of the store, and prevented it from spreading to the nearby businesses. The blaze only destroyed the eastern section of the store.

Holder told this online publication that the origin of the fire seems to be that of an electrical malfunction.

According to him, the fire started as a result of “poor housekeeping.”

He explained that there were multiple combustible items- including carpets and mats- stocked up to the ceiling of the storage room and so the fire managed to catch on quickly.

The Fire Prevention Officer also noted that while the other businesses did not suffer much damage from the fire, there was some damage because of the water used to quell the blaze.

“I believe an electrical store nearby lost materials that were damaged by the water,” he said.

Moreover, he alleged that D.Singh and Son’s and other businesses in the area, did  not have fire extinguishers while highlighting that there was no Fire Certificate visible to him at the scene.

When posed with this allegation, Singh refuted these claims, noting that his father’s business has three fire extinguishers.

However, he could not say whether the business had received a Fire Certificate or if it had been cleared by the Guyana Fire Service to operate.

Last year, following the Gafoors Complex fire at Houston, Deputy Fire Chief Compton Sparman made a call for the observance of the Building Code.

According to Sparman, the Building Code is stronger and “has more meat than the Fire Prevention Act”.

The National Building Code of Guyana recommends various loads and resistance factors to ensure safety in structural designs and construction of buildings, while the Fire Prevention Act provides for the inspection of premises in Guyana for the purpose of eliminating fire hazards.

Sparman noted that the Fire Prevention Act was designed on a goodwill basis.

“You don’t have to adhere to it, the only thing that we can do is to prevent you from certifying the place,” he stated.

However, the Building Code being implemented to deal with fire safety and occupancy is mandatory.

According to Sparman, most businesses in Guyana are negligent when it comes to observing the Building Code as it has a cost attached.

“The data would show that most buildings, most times you recommend certain fire safety requirements, some put quarter, some put half and some none at all because as I said there is a cost attached. So the building code will eat down your profit and because you want to maximise your profit, people opt to go to the insurance to insure,” he disclosed. (Ramona Luthi)

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