Director of Marketing at MovieTowne, Louanna Borde told Sunday Newsday the company continually monitored the situation and kept in contact with the Fire Services in order to determine whether or not the smoke would affect patrons.
“If that were the case, or if there was danger of the fire spreading, the company would have closed the compound,” she said.
However, that was not necessary as, fortunately, while the strong winds fed the flames, it mostly blew towards the sea, with minimal impact to patrons. In addition, the area was mostly clear of persons except for a few curious individuals looking on from the second- level PriceSmart car park. According to shoppers at PriceSmart they were told to evacuate the premises at 5 pm but it was unclear whether the store reopened or remained closed for the rest of the evening. One shopper, who is asthmatic, said the smoke was “really and truly thick”.
According to reports from fire officers, the bush fire started about 10 am and two 40-foot containers and one 20-foot container containing tyres and car parts caught fire and some vehicles also got scorched.
Appliances from Fire Services Headquarters at Wrightson Road, Belmont and Woodbrook were on the scene. Fire officers said they needed water and were awaiting a supply from the Water and Sewerage Authority.
Fire officers noted the fire was difficult because of the tyres and vehicle parts which are oil based and more difficult to put out. The smoke from this is also more hazardous and fire officers had to use breathing apparatus and foam At about 5.30 pm, Port Authority workers could be seen moving containers and vehicles located near to the burning containers which held tyres and car parts. About 15 minutes later, foam could be seen drifting in the wind as fire officers used the appropriate extinguishing agent.
By 6 pm, the fire seemed to be completely extinguished as fire officers packed up vans and appliances, and the smoke turned from black to grey.
Port Authority public relations manager Betty Ann Gibbons reported the fire at the compound began around 1.30 pm and the port’s safety team and security personnel were on hand to ensure fire officers were not hampered and everyone kept out of the way. She said the port still has to do an assessment of the damage.
Derek Chin, chairman of Multicinemas Ltd, speaking in a telephone interview from Europe, said he was informed that the blaze was caused by a brush fire by Invaders Bay. He noted he has repeatedly asked the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott) to keep the area clean regularly but they do not.
He recalled that last year, about March or April, there was also a brush fire originating from the area. He noted that Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has been calling on State agencies to keep their areas clean to curb mosquito breeding but it appeared Udecott has not been heeding that call in this case.
“The situation is a potential disaster,” he stressed.
Chin said it was unfortunate that the land managed by Udecott is located to the side and rear of MovieTowne.
“Every five years something is done (to clean it). Then it grows back to jungle,” he said.
He noted that he has appealed many times to Udecott but no one has responded.
Inshan Ishmael, former president of the Used Car Dealers Association and consultant for the used car industry, informed Sunday Newsday they will not be able to identify whose containers and vehicles were damaged until a broker can identify them and inform the consignees.
He agreed with Chin that the area around the compound should be kept clear and also called on the port to ensure the area is secure.
“You do not know what is in the bush or the waters on the other side,” he commented.
Attempts to contact Udecott media manager Roxanne Stapleton- Whyms yesterday were unsuccessful.