Fire on Bay Street
For the second time this year, fire ripped through a portion of Bay Street early yesterday morning, this time destroying the historic Pompey Museum and the Old Nassau liquor store building, and severely damaging other structures on the western end of Bay Street.
Superintendent Jeffrey Deleveaux, the outgoing director of fire services who was on the first day of his pre-retirement leave, told reporters at the scene that the fire appeared to have started at the site of the old straw market tent.
The new multimillion-dollar straw market was not damaged. It was built to replace the straw market, which was destroyed by fire just over a decade ago.
“Notwithstanding any of the debate on the new straw market, thank God it is not near there,” said Progressive Liberal Party Leader Perry Christie as he watched firefighters in action at the scene.
Deleveaux added, “The strong winds spread the fire over to the Pompey Museum. That was destroyed.”
Around 7 a.m., Deleveaux declared that the fire — which started around 3 a.m. — was under control.
Asked if there was any indication what caused the fire, he said, “On my arrival on the scene, I met the Pompey Museum fully involved. That was time to fight. That wasn’t a time to try to find out what was the cause.
“We just [fought] to bring this quickly under control.”
There was speculation among some people on the scene that the fire was the work of an arsonist, but police said they had not confirmed this, but would continue to investigate such reports.
Deleveaux said the winds were the main challenge for firefighters.
“Manpower was minimal, but the Defence Force came in, the airport [firefighters] came in, and so it (manpower) was not a factor,” he said, adding that firefighters from Lyford Cay also assisted in putting out the blaze.
The fire came dangerously close to the British American Building, which houses the chief justice’s chambers, courts, and financial offices.
The large building was threatened after 5 a.m. when the wind blew the blaze to the southern portion of Bay Street.
The building that houses Edy’s icecream — immediately opposite Pompey Museum — was one of the buildings burnt.
The roof of another building just behind it caved in from the blaze.
“Every building that was involved had extensive damage,” Deleveux said.
“When you look at the old straw market, all of the plastic sheeting that was used for covering, all of that is destroyed.”
The site of the old straw market where officials believe the fire started was barely more than a frame as it was torn down just last weekend, three months after it was severely damaged in Hurricane Irene.
Da Balcony nightclub was located in the Old Nassau liquor store building just next to that site.
Attorney Brian Moree, whose law offices are on George Street, across the street from Pompey Museum, said around 6 a.m. he and his team had some anxious moments as they watched firefighters work to put out the blaze.
Moree’s offices are located near the British American Building.
“In any office you’ve got a lot of paper,” he said. “Of course, we have fire protection cabinets and certain vaults that we have our sensitive documents in.
“But there’s an awful lot of paper and if there were a fire in the building it would be a major problem.”
As indicated, yesterday’s fire was the second on Bay Street for the year.
On February 14, a blaze destroyed the Kelly Dock on the eastern end of Bay Street.
As a result of the blaze yesterday, police blocked traffic into downtown Nassau for several hours.
Deleveaux said the fire services department was appreciative for the outside assistance it received.
“I really was praying very hard that it didn’t happen, but apparently this seems like a going away present,” he said.
“…I will always be a firefighter. One thing I won’t turn in are my bunker gears. I live for a day like this.”
* For more images on the Bay Street fire check our online galleries : https://thenassauguardian.com/