Fire not suspicious

Cayman Islands fire investigators looking into Tuesday’s massive three storey blaze at an unfinished Lakeside condo building in George Town said the fire likely started on accident.

There were reports from workers on scene that flames broke out after a welding torch was left unattended, but fire officials could not confirm those statements by press time.

Fire Inspector Doorly McLaughlin was on scene at the fire Wednesday. He said the initial investigation showed the flames breaking out in one of the lower floors of the building and spreading up to the third floor, possibly through a stairwell. Acting Chief Fire Officer Dennom Bodden said crews were investigating whether flames may have actually broken out in the stairwell.

No one was injured in the fire, which was reported to 911 at 12.19pm. More than 30 firefighters, both on and off duty, responded to the call. Seven fire trucks were on scene at the height of the blaze and flames were brought under control about an hour later, though crews spent a few hours afterward dousing hot spots.

Mr. Bodden said the response was exceptional, considering nearby fire stations would have eight firefighters total, five from George Town and three from West Bay, responding to a normal call.

Damage to the unfinished condo building was severe, particularly on the third floor where flames could be seen leaping up over the walls (see this story for pictures and video). Crews extended ladders over the flames and poured water down into the building while other firefighters on the ground sprayed water onto the structure.

Mr. Bodden said there was some slight heat-related damage to an adjacent building, which was also under construction. But he said firefighters were able to contain the flames to the one structure.

Attempts to contact Lakeside developer NCB (Cayman) Limited were unsuccessful by press time Wednesday.

Firefighters were aided on Tuesday by the presence of a man-made lake on the Lakeside complex located right next to the building where fire broke out. Mr. McLaughlin said the complex does have a deep well constructed near it along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, but he said the lake made water supply issues much easier.

Mr. McLaughlin also congratulated Lakeside on its construction, which allowed firefighters easy access to all sides of the building, even the area closest to the lake.

‘There’s a requirement that firefighters must have access to three sides of a building that large,’ he said. ‘It was one thing that really helped us.’

The building is part of a later phase of the Lakeside development and was not ready for occupancy. It’s believed no work crews were in the area of the building where the fire started Tuesday, since most were on lunch break at the time.

Smoke from the raging fire could be seen for miles around, from Esterley Tibbetts into the George Town harbour area where dozens of tourists and residents stopped to look at the black smoke flowing over the harbour wondering what was happening off in the distance.