The expectation of over 1000 students attending the William Booth Salvation Army Junior and Senior High School at Paynesville, Red-light was dashed yesterday morning when the compound hosting the school property was destroyed by what was suspected to be the work of arsonists.
Salvation Army representative to Liberia, Envoy Momo G. Douwee, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer via mobile phone yesterday, shortly after news of the fire broke out, said the entire Paynesville facility had been burnt to the ground. He attributed the cause of the fire to the work of arsonists among the gangs of suspected criminals residing in nearby communities.
There was no human casualty and up to press time last night, police officers were investigating the cause of the fire. There have been no reports of arrests.
Forensic experts from the Liberia National Police (LNP), backed by their counterparts from the various security agencies, including the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), are investigating the cause of the fire.
Envoy Douwee told the Daily Observer that at the time of the incident, “There were no electrical appliances, not even a standby generator on, nor was there any lighted candle.”
He put the cost of the damage, including computer laboratories, the chapel, a set of modern furniture and the dormitories housing the students to over US$1 million.
Staff and watchmen assigned at the compound called him around 9 p.m. Wednesday night informing him that “our school is engulfed in fire and the flames have spread to every part of the compound.”
Unfortunately, two trucks conveying fire fighters from the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS) dispatched to save the compound reportedly developed “mechanical faults” and could not arrive on the scene in time.
“Fire fighters arrived very late with the excuse that their fire trucks broke down while en-route to the area. They came when the entire compound was gone,” one of the senior students lamented.
Most of the students, who turned out for school yesterday, unaware that their school had been destroyed by fire, were seen crying.
Like many other schools in the country, the William Booth Salvation Army School reopened for academic 2014/2015 only about three days ago with an encouraging student enrollment, according to information made available to the Daily Observer.
Meanwhile, Envoy Douwee has disclosed that though engineers were yet to establish the extent of the destruction, the administration has begun putting up temporary structures to run the school until its International Command can respond to the disaster.
“Salvation Army will put up emergency structures until the foundation of the damaged buildings is tested for durability by our engineers,” Amb. Douwee assured.
The Salvation Army opened in May 1988 as part of the Ghana and Liberia territory with Major and Mrs. Leonard Millar assigned as Pioneer Officers. This happened after more than ten years of letters being written to International Headquarters by church pastors asking them to become part of the movement.
Liberia was given separate command status on January 1, 1997. The Liberia Command is one of the newest churches in the country. “But because of our holistic ministry, the Salvation Army is ranked among the fastest growing churches with schools being constructed in every part of the country.”
“Our education system is ranked among the best in the country. Our social and medical services are also being appreciated throughout Liberia. The Command has recorded a steady growth as a result of our evangelical outreach,” Envoy Douwee asserted.
“The mission of the Liberia Command,” he explained, “is to exemplify our love and relationship with Christ in every area of our lives. We will strive to emulate Him in our ministry to mankind in servant-hood and love.
“We will discipline ourselves as an evangelical force, determined to build and sustain the kingdom of God and promote the expansion of the Salvation Army into the 15 counties, and surrounding countries and by God’s grace, we will take possession of the land that God has already given to us.”