From the Trinidad Guardian

An early-morning fire almost gutted Ansa McAl’s Training Centre on St Vincent Street in Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

The building caught fire at about 1.45 am. Appliances from St James, San Juan and Belmont responded and managed to contain the fire at about 7 am.

The top floor and roof of the building were completely destroyed.

Offices occupied by two tenants, Windsor Construction and One Financial, were also destroyed.

Gerry Brooks, Ansa McAl’s chief operating officer, said the group was looking to relocate the offices.

He said he could not give an estimate of the building’s worth or the cost of the fire damage, but the sums could run into millions of dollars.

He said apart from the financial aspect, the building was also a historical loss.

The building was one of the company’s eight historic properties, and was fitted with an ornate wooden staircase and wooden finishings.

Brooks said it represented a period in history which was irreplaceable.

The fire, which raged for almost five hours, was kept under control.

Brooks said firefighters had to ensure that the nearby buildings, which included Ansa Merchant and Finance and HSS Rental Stores, were also secure, as sparks from the fire could easily have ignited them.

The bottom of St Vincent Street was closed to traffic, so firemen could continue their investigations.

Traffic had to be diverted, and this caused some early morning disruption.

Up to late yesterday, cause of the fire could not be determined.

Fire Service statistics show there were 65 fires in Port-of-Spain during the first six months of this year.

A mother and her four children are homeless after an early-morning fire, yesterday, destroyed her house.

Maria Carrington, 30, of Alexander Place in East Dry River, Port-of-Spain, woke up shortly after 6 am to find her hair alight, after a fire had started in her two-storey home, she said in a phone interview.

A guard with Telecom Security Services, Carrington said she took her sons, Mario, five, and two-year-old twins Tyrese and Tyrique out of the burning house.

But by the time she went back in for her eldest son, 12-year-old Shaquille, the fire had already spread through most of the exits, and she and her son had to jump over the bannister from the top floor.

Although she lost everything, no one was injured.

Neighbours soon formed a bucket brigade to help douse the fire.

Carrington said the firemen took close to an hour to arrive, as they were already battling a fire at the Ansa McAl Training Centre on St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain.

She still commended the work done by the firefighters, who managed to save the house next door.

“I lost everything. The only thing I have now is the bra and half-slip I went to sleep with.”

She said she was visited by councillor for the area Peter John, who told her he would have to speak with Eric Williams, MP for Port-of-Spain South, before any assistance could be given.

But up to late yesterday evening, she had not heard from either, Carrington said.

She praised her neighbours who came to her aid, adding that she was overnighting at the home of one of them.

“My neighbour has offered me a place to stay. But she have six children and I have four. How long can she put up with me?” she asked.

Fire officials could not be reached to determine what caused the fire.