"Riverside Hall destroyed by Fire"
...article from: channel 5 belize
Feb 21, 2000
Riverside Hall destroyed by fire:
Many Belize City residents have fond memories of weekend dances at the Riverside Hall on North Front Street. Others remember it as the headquarters of Bradley’s Bottling Works. While those days are long gone, there was a certain amount of regret when the old wooden building was destroyed by fire this morning. But a more pressing concern was the large butane tanks in the Fishing Cooperative building next door.
News Five’s Stephen Ferguson was there and captured some of the action.
Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Thick black smoke billowed across the Haulover Creek and flames shot towards the sky as the fire totally engulfed the old Riverside Hall.
It is not yet known what caused the blaze but witnesses claim they saw smoke and then flames coming from upstairs of the building.
Michael Welch, Witness
“Well I see fire was coming from the backroom of the building and then after that it just spread over.”
From upstairs of the building?
Henry Baizar, Fire Chief
“The neighbor from next door at number 90 North Front Street said he saw smoke and when he came outside to investigate
and when he looked, the whole entire back of the building was already engulfed in flames.”
Fire Chief Henry Baizar reports when fire fighters arrived on the scene the entire building was already ablaze. Although the department prevented the fire from spreading, they did have some problems getting water from the nearby creek.
“The river is all silt up and what not, we had to send people into the river and actually had to be digging out the mud and what not for us to really get down the suction hose. And for us to even start lifting out the water that is true but that did not take too long, it was an inconvenience because we do not have the amount of manpower to have someone in the water holding down the hose for us and what not. We need all the hands we could get to help us fight the fire.”
Two years ago the building was bought by the Northern Fishermen’s Cooperative Society Limited from Bradley’s Bottling Works. The upstairs of the building was rented to Armando Nunez who operated a bar. Downstairs the Cooperative kept tools and various items that were used by the company’s maintenance section.
While there was nothing the fire department could do to save the burning building, they worked hard to protect the cooperative’s main building next door. They had to constantly spray water on the building because it contained two huge fuel tanks that were threatening to explode.
“There were two tanks one upstairs and one downstairs. One, the fuel for the generator and a big butane tank stored downstairs and when we arrived there two of them were really smoking and we had to keep water on them throughout the process of fighting the fire but nevertheless everything went well.”
Although the fire occurred across the river on the north side of the city, the smoke was so intense it affected people living along the riverside on the south side. The children attending Calvary Temple primary school had to be sent home for the morning.
Cynthia Numan, Principal, Calvary Temple School
“Well we realize that it is very unhealthy to have the children inhaling the smoke. A few of them have shown signs of illness and a teacher, well we took her over to the hospital because she fainted.”
Baizar says their initial investigation has revealed that there were also living quarters located upstairs of the building that was sublet by Armando Nunez. The downstairs also housed a karate training area and a room that was used to fill diving tanks. Baizar told News Five, as a result of their investigation, they strongly believe that something was left on in the building upstairs that started the blaze.