Residents of the nearby district of Trafalgar Village said they were awoken by loud popping explosions as the fire quickly spread through the premises of the embassy, while the smoke filled the air, penetrating many homes.
Up to three fire engines are said to have responded as the battle to save the embassy ensued, but the best efforts from fire and emergency officers were not able to save the building or any or its contents. In fact one resident who left the comfort of their bed to observe what was taking place said, “Nothing was saved. Everything bun up…dey ain’t save a ting”.
Fire Chief Everette O’Garro confirmed that statement when he told MiyVue.com in an exclusive interview on Sunday that “The entire building and its contents were destroyed. We responded to a call around 4:20am indicating that there was a fire on Wigley Avenue and when we arrived on the scene the building was already completely engulfed.”
O’Garro said his officers with the help of trucks from Basseterre and one that was called in from as far as Sandy Point, some 10 miles away, had to resort to an operation of extinguishing the building, because at the time it could not be saved. The only thing left standing was the flag of Venezueala that continued to sway in the strong morning breeze.
“We saw items that may be used as evidence to help determine the cause of the fire,” stated the Fire Chief. However preliminary observations and based on the items found, are leading to arson as a probable cause.
The operation took the fire services about 2 hours to bring under control and by just after 6:00am they managed to contain the situation. O’Garro said that they worked with the Criminal Investigation Department of the Police Force, (CID), and by 8:10am they handed the scene over to this law enforcement department for further investigations.
No one was occupying the building at the time of the fire and there was no known security at the facility, said the Fire Chief. It is also understood that it was only late last year (2013), that the building underwent extensive renovation and the embassy re-located there from its Delisle Street location. Before the renovation the building had been left abandoned and in disrepair for many years but it was also once the home of the Venezuelan ambassador back in the 1980s.
Though up to 10:00am this morning, small pockets of smoke were still visible in certain sections of the building, the Fire Chief gave the assurance that this is no cause for alarm.
Earlier, the fire services were also called to another incident, this time at the offices of the Organization of American States, OAS, loctaed on Horsford’s Road, just a short distance from the Venezuelan embassy. That fire, said Chief O’Garro, occurred just after 12:00am but their quick response managed to prevent any serious damage. He said they found clear evidence at this scene that confirms that arson was at play.