Goods and property worth about US$3 million have been destroyed after fire engulfed the Yacco Business Center in Clara Town, one of the nation’s busy commercial hubs in Monrovia.
The fire incident, which started Friday morning, lasted over eight hours, with efforts of officers from the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS) proven abortive. Neighbors and passersby watched helplessly as the fire continued to complete the job of turning everything into ash.
Though firefighters from the LNFS could not immediately put out the fire in the store, they were however able to prevent it from spreading to nearby business centers. With six fire trucks and over 20 firefighters tackling the blaze, the they were unable to save the affected store.
The store, Yacco, owned by a Lebanese national, sold car batteries, lubricants, generators and car tires of all kinds.
The fire incident on Friday blocked traffic, shut down scores of businesses, with thousands forced to walk past the disaster area to central Monrovia.
While the cause of the fire has not yet been established, eyewitnesses have attributed the cause to possible electrical shock.
“This was terrifying and devastating. I was in the store trying to buy a car battery when the fire started and before one of the store boys could reach to the current box to turn the breaker off, it was late. The fire was already blazing,” Ruth Kollie said.
Another eyewitness, Jennie Brown, described the fire incident as shocking and heartbreaking. “Thank God no life was lost, but the fire caused huge damage. It is like going back to zero, going back to the village to start all over again,” she said.
James Brown, one of the store workers, said the fire incident was a sad occurrence because the store was recently stocked up with a new inventory of goods just before the fire.
“I don’t know what will happen to my boss now because he lost everything. I don’t know whether he had insurance to cover that loss,” Brown said.
“We reported the fire earlier to the LNFS, but when they came first, they had no water in their truck. Upon their return, the situation was already out of control,” David Fayiah, another Yacco worker, said.
He added: “While it is true that firefighters tried to stop the fire from expanding to nearby business centers, they could have saved the store if they had arrived with water in their truck in the beginning. They ran away from the fire, last minute to time, which made the situation worse.”
But a firefighter who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity disagreed with David’s assertions that when firefighters arrived there was no water when in their trucks.
“We came and did our best. We fought the fire but that kind of fire was difficult to control. Despite the limited equipment and chemicals we have, we were able to contain the fire. If not because of us, the whole commercial hub of Clara Town was going to be gone. At least we deserve praises for that,” he retorted.