An official from the Saint Lucia Fire Service (SLFS) has spoken about the challenges the crew faced combatting the fire that destroyed the Folk Research Centre (FRC) at Mount Pleasant, Castries on Sunday, March 25, 2018.
The SLFS received the call at 10:19 p.m. and dispatched units from Gros Islet and Castries fire stations.
On arrival at the scene on Calgary Road, firefighters observed that the entire left side of the building was fully engulfed in flames.
A fire hydrant was not in the immediate area, so the crew had to use the closest hydrant with sufficient water pressure, which was located about two miles away at the SAB playing field, according to Acting Divisional Officer Jermaine William in an interview with DBS.
William added that the construction design of the FRC building posed another challenge.
“The officers assigned to that unit did try to make an entry into the structure, however because of the construction within that particular building, they were unable to do so. The entire stairway, it was constructed of wood, was fully engulfed, and the officers could not venture up those stairs to try to get to the fire. The officers did try to enter through the rear of the building, however that too was already fully engulfed and opening those glass doors just added a little more oxygen to the fire,” William said, adding that the books, papers, and other flammable material fed the inferno and allowed it to spread faster.
The cause of the fire is yet to be determined but William said the investigators within the service are trained to deal with that type of incident. He told DBS that firefighters were on the scene at least one hour after the blaze and are still searching the scene for evidence.
“The investigators are trained in that regard and they know what to look for and where to look for it. So it poses a challenge depending on how the firefighting crews approach the scene, so in some instances, there may be a lot of damage to the actual scene but the firefighters have been sufficiently trained to protect as much as possible the scene. To preserve it,” he said.
No one was hurt in the incident but the fire destroyed many years of information and material about St. Lucia’s cultural heritage.