Five people were left homeless after a fire ripped through their timber-framed houses in central George Town in a suspected arson attack early Sunday morning.
A woman sleeping with her 6-year-old child in one of the small adjoining houses on Cruz Lane had to be rescued by neighbors and special police constables as the blaze took hold.
Samantha Bodden said she awoke only when her front door was kicked open.
“They were pounding and pounding, but I didn’t hear. I didn’t know what was going on. They took me and my daughter out of the house,” she said.
It was only then that she saw the smoke and flames at the back of her property.
“I was just screaming ‘my house is on fire, my house is on fire.’ I didn’t know what to do. There were a lot of aerosol cans exploding inside.”
“I’ve been here all my life. That house was there even before I was born. It was damaged by Ivan and we put it back up, but it’s gone now.
“Everything is ruined; all my pictures of my kids, all my memories, everything.”
Next door, her uncle Vann Webb and his tenant Eldon Walton suffered even worse damage.
Mr. Walton said he was inside, lying on his bed with the television turned up loud, when he heard someone shouting “fire.”
“I went out and saw the smoke coming from under his door,” he said, gesturing to Mr. Webb.
“I pushed the door open with my foot and I saw his bed blazing.
“I shouted ‘Yo, fire in this place.’ I had one big container of water and I threw it on the fire but that just made the flames come up higher and catch me on the arm.”
The flames crept over a dividing fence to a neighboring property where Mr. Webb’s brother, Linford Webb, lives.
The fire brigade was on the scene within five minutes, according to the home owners, and were able to contain the damage to the neighboring property and stop the fire from spreading.
The family say they believe the building was set on fire deliberately, and they believe they know who was responsible.
A Royal Cayman Islands Police spokesperson said all lines of inquiry are being investigated, and officers are conducting forensic investigations on the property.
Matthew Leslie, manager of the Cayman Islands Brewery and a community organizer, arranged temporary accommodation for those who had nowhere else to stay, including Ms. Bodden, and her children, Daegon Frederick, 11 and Darianna Frederick, 6. Mr. Leslie has also organized collections of clothing, food and toys for the children.
The family were meeting with the Needs Assessment Unit on Monday.
Ms. Bodden said she was thankful to everyone who had stepped forward to help, and grateful for the quick action of police, neighbors and the fire service.
“We just hope for the best now and give God thanks that we’re still here.”
The Webb brothers built the small family compound more than 30 years ago.
Standing amid the wreckage Monday morning, surrounded by charred appliances, a burnt bed frame, blackened bicycle wheel and collapsed corrugated iron roof, Vann Webb vowed to rebuild.
“I’ve been here all my life. I don’t know anywhere else. All I need is the materials and I can put it all back again.”
He was not on the property at the time of the fire, but he said he was told it burned to the ground in minutes.
He said he had lost everything but the shirt and pants he was wearing.
His wallet, phone, a little money, and Mr. Walton’s tools for his job as a roofer and landscaper were among the casualties of the fire. Two televisions, a fridge and a new air conditioning unit were also destroyed.
But Mr. Walton said he was thankful it was not worse.
“We’ve still got life, got to be thankful for that,” he said.
Mr. Leslie said he was concerned that other buildings in the neighborhood could have caught fire.
“It is all wood and zinc buildings back there. If the wind had been going in a different direction, it could have been dreadful.”
Anyone who would like to assist can call Matthew Leslie on 917-3027.