Three farm workers fled from a burning building in Northward, Bodden Town, last week in a blaze that killed more than 200 chickens in a coop next door.

Cayman firefighters rushed to the scene after receiving an emergency call from 911 shortly after 11 p.m. Friday, May 12, according to Deputy Fire Chief Dwayne Ebanks.

Fire Service officers are investigating the cause of the fire at the farm, at which wood is burned to make charcoal.

Farmer Shirley Hines lived in the house with two co-workers.

“When me look through the house window, me see the fire ablaze. All I could do was shout fire! fire!” Mr. Hines said. “Me run outside and the chickens were flying around in the burning coop trying to come out but I couldn’t get near to open the door.”

He said one of the other men from the house ran to turn on a water pump but by then the fire had already spread from the coop to the house.

He ran back inside the house to wake his friend Jim Smith, who was still sleeping, and they both rushed outside as the flames climbed the building. Realizing his papers, including his passport, were still inside the house, Mr. Hines climbed over the wire fence and through the back window to retrieve them, burning his hand in the process.

“All a my phone burn up … the stove, fridge, mattress, bicycle, feeding, weedwacker, clothes, all the shoes, everything in the house burn up.

“I had a suitcase with some clothes and I flung it out the window,” he said.

Six hens from the original flock, some very young chicks and a rooster perished in the fire, according to farm owner Janet Powell.

“I lost my special rooster,” lamented Ms. Powell, speaking with the Cayman Compass on Wednesday by phone. “I just bought an incubator so that I could hatch the eggs so I wouldn’t have to buy no more stock from the Agriculture Department … now they all gone.”

Ms. Powell said she had been running the coop for the past six years, starting out with chickens she had purchased from the Agriculture Department. She got into charcoal burning and farming afterward, she said.

To keep her charcoal burning business going, Ms. Powell said she helps people clear their property by taking wood from them. “I was able to take away the trees and burn them on the farm to make coal instead of them having to pay to have it removed. I also use the cut trees from my farm,” she said.

The workers “burn coal” by placing logs in a crisscross pattern inside a basin dug into the earth. The hole is packed with grass and dirt, with a hole left at the top through which the wood pile is lit, using a long stick. The wood burns for two weeks underground, turning to charcoal. The charcoal is dug up and raked, then bagged and taken to the market.

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.