Fire In La Entrada
The Destruction of a Popular Business and Apartment Complex Raises Doubts on Safety and Readiness

July 1st, 2010
by Benjamin Roberts

[private]

Clothes, toys, and furniture either burned or saturated in smoke coat the floors of the upper apartment complex of the Arco Iris. Although no fowl play was suspected, serious issues remain with Roatan's fire safety and prevention systems.

Clothes, toys, and furniture either burned or saturated in smoke coat the floors of the upper apartment complex of the Arco Iris. Although no fowl play was suspected, serious issues remain with Roatan's fire safety and prevention systems.

On Tuesday, June 22nd smoke could be seen bellowing from the outer layers of Coxen Hole. This is nothing new, residents here and across Honduras and The Bay Islands burn trash, leaves, and any other refuse on a regular basis. Arriving on the scene the first sight was a crowd of approximately 200 persons surrounding the blaze. The Arco Iris, an apartment complex at the upper levels and billiards club / laundry service on the bottom was fully engulfed in flames. At ground level existed a chaotic brew of mud, ash, flames, and Samaritans, trying desperately to douse the burning flames. Buckets of water being thrown to upper levels, it seemed as though once an assembly line could be formed and some kind of control was achieved, the fire had moved to another area of the structure. By the time the Roatan Fire Department landed it was far too late. The Bomberos were able to finally put out the blaze but by then the building was far too gone.

What happened?

Jose Siguenza, owner of the Arco Iris, had a somber reaction. He believed fowl play was not involved and the fire was most likely started by faulty wiring in the building, or a pile of clothes ignited because of close proximity to an outlet. “These things happen,” remarked Siguenza. “There isn’t much you can do.” However, according to Roatan Fire Department Logistica, Brian McNeal there is much that can be done and should have been done to avert the blaze. According the McNeal residents did not called the Bomberos when the blaze began and instead attempted to put out the fire themselves. “When we arrived on the scene the structure was fully involved.” At this stage in a building fire nothing can be done to save it and firefighting crews cannot enter the structure until applying hoses only on the exterior.

It’s unclear if the Arco Iris could have been saved if the Fire Department had been contacted immediately, but the chances would have been substantially higher. When asked if there was an investigation into what caused the fire, McNeal cited the great need for a arson investigator here on the island. “The real need is not to investigate the cause of a fire, but the preventative measures an arson investigator offers.” Although the Roatan Municipal has building inspectors, fire safety and prevention is not always a top priority. “For every dollar you spend in prevention you save 10 in the long run, this is a position we need on the island.”

Residents scramble to save the Arco Iris residential and business complex on June 22nd.

Residents scramble to save the Arco Iris residential and business complex on June 22nd.

In regards to the billiards club and lavanderia, business manager and owner Carlos Molina says he has only 25% insurance for his businesses, not nearly enough to start a new store somewhere or even supply new equipment. For now it seems, nearly twenty people have had to relocate their homes, losing much of their belongings and two business owners must restart as well. A sad story told time and time again. [/private]

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