New housing found for fire victims

Vann Webb stands in the doorway of his burnt-out home last week. - PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER

A family who lost their George Town home in a suspected arson attack last week have been temporarily relocated to government housing in West Bay.

Five people, including a mother and two children, were left homeless by the blaze on Cruz Lane last Sunday.

Samantha Bodden, who was rescued from the building along with her 6-year-old daughter, told the Cayman Compass she was grateful the community had stepped up to help.

CayBrew manager and community activist Matthew Leslie orchestrated efforts to assist, putting the displaced families up in a hotel and coordinating donations in the aftermath of the fire.

He said government had now found accommodation for all the victims of the blaze and a private company had stepped in to donate furnishings, while concerned community members had given clothes, toys and other supplies.

Mr. Leslie praised the way the community had come together, as they did a year ago for the Buttrum family who lost their home to another devastating fire in George Town.

“I think when people see a coordinated effort taking place, they are willing to contribute because they know their contribution means something,” he said.

“It does take a community to make these things happen. If we don’t support each other, there is going to be a breakdown because one day it might be you. This sort of thing can happen to anyone.”

Community Affairs Minister Osbourne Bodden was on the scene early last week with other government members. He said temporary accommodation had been found and assistance was being granted to the families through the Housing Repair Fund to rebuild the homes that were destroyed and repair those that were damaged.

Two adjoining timber-framed homes suffered significant damage in the fire and had to be leveled last week. Another neighboring home suffered some fire damage but is able to be repaired.

Vann Webb, who built the homes with his brother Linford Webb more than 30 years ago, said he planned to rebuild. Mr. Webb, his tenant Eldon Walton, his niece Ms. Bodden and her children Darianna Frederick, 6, and Daegon Frederick, 11, were left homeless and lost all their belongings in the fire.

Minister Bodden said he was concerned it could have been worse.

“If the fire had been started on the southeast side of that property, we would have had a real disaster on our hands, with likely loss of life. Thank God once again it didn’t and thanks to all who helped that night and in the days since, especially the community effort spearheaded by Matthew Leslie, which has provided much comfort and relief.”

He acknowledged concerns about the state of some of the housing in the area and said planning would have to look carefully at such family compounds in future.

Mr. Leslie also raised concerns about the safety of some of the self-built timber and zinc buildings in George Town.

“We have to look at some of these homes a little closer. Some of the tenement yards are not safe,” he said.

Police said last week they were investigating the cause of the fire, but no update has been provided since.