Community recovers after blazing fire fight

  • Temperatures high: the fire rages in the background at Devonshire Marsh as a firefighter goes about his duties (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Firefighters push back the blaze from a residence off Middle Road (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • A wall of fire fans across Devonshire Marsh (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Grateful Devonshire residents thanked firefighters yesterday for tackling a major blaze that threatened homes and businesses on Saturday.

The brushfire, which broke out at about 8.20am, scorched a swath of Devonshire Marsh, blanketing surrounding neighbourhoods in acrid smoke.

Sheridan and Claudette Cann, who live on Middle Road near Upland Street, heard sirens but did not think much until their daughter called to tell them about the fire.

Mrs Cann said: “When we went out, we saw the smoke back there. We didn’t dream in a million years that it would travel up here so fast.”

She added: “It made a swift path this way. It knew exactly where to go because the wind was so powerful.”

Mrs Cann said her son-in-law, Wayne O’Brien, told them to evacuate their home after speaking to police. She quickly packed.

She said: “The most important thing you have is your life and that your family is safe. You make sure that everybody is safe and if you have time, you grab your documents.”

Mrs Cann alerted neighbours and the family gave a disabled neighbour a lift up to Lindo’s Market, where her family met them.

Mr Cann returned home to make sure the house was safe. He said the fire jumped across Middle Road at one point, setting palmetto trees on fire within 100 feet of the house.

The family offered their tank of water when they found out firefighters were running low.

Mrs Cann said she had faith that God would see them through but added that it was a frightening experience for her granddaughter.

Surayya Trott-Cann, 10, said: “I was very scared. I didn’t know what to do. I was thinking about all the animals.”

But Mrs Cann said she did a “fantastic job”, packing her bag quickly.

She explained that they had always prepared for a hurricane but added that “this was new to us — you have very little time with a fire”.

Mrs Cann said the incident showed how Bermuda could rally together and commended the firefighters, police and water truckers for acting swiftly.

Her daughter, Sherlette Cann, added: “It was a good inter-service effort.”

The Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service also thanked the public for pitching in.

Lieutenant Russann Francis said the fire “could have gotten much worse without the assistance of the public”.

The fire was first reported near the Island Construction garage yard and neared Middle Road before spreading east.

Roberta Tucker, who lives on Vesey Street, said: “It was a little scary when we started to see the flames. We didn’t expect it to come this way.”

Mr Tucker praised the fire service and the water truckers who helped out. Her comments were echoed by another resident who said firefighters did an excellent job.

The woman, who asked not to be named, could see the fire drawing closer as she ran errands throughout the day.

She had seen the marsh on fire twice before but said: “It was quite a sight — I had never seen it like that.

“I could hear flames and I heard things popping and cracking. All we could do was watch it burn.”

Progressive Labour Party and Devonshire East MP Christopher Famous, who is travelling in the Caribbean, thanked the “nearly 100 BFRS personnel” who tackled the blaze, as well as “countless” residents and businesses owners who offered up their tank water, helped to evacuate the elderly and gave refreshments to firefighters.

He added via social media: “Our land may be damaged and our homes may be smoky, but our hearts will always be #Devonshirestrong.”

The fire was finally brought under control at about 3pm and roads later reopened.

Crews remained to wet down hotspots and prevent the blaze from reigniting.