They can create a spectacular display in the night sky, but for the residents whose four homes were gutted by fire along Quarry Street in Port-of-Spain, it meant complete disaster.
They are now calling for a ban on sky or fire lanterns as an eyewitness claimed it was one of the illuminated paper lanterns that started the blaze just after midnight on New Year’s Day.
When Guardian Media visited the neighbourhood in the morning yesterday, some of the burnt out houses were still smouldering and just the shell of Brian McKenzie’s car and house were left.
A Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) pole was lying on the ground, T&TEC trucks were on the scene, work crews were installing a 12-metre pole and working to provide electricity to the neighbourhood.
Speaking to Guardian Media yesterday, Nicole Bennett said,
“I heard ‘Happy New Year’. We were inside, I now walk outside with the bag of fireworks for my daughter to light up one firework. When I look back my neighbour come running down and said she was smelling smoke.
My entire backroom was engulfed in flames, we run down the side of the house to see how bad it is. The two children’s bedrooms were gone, my room was fully engulfed, I tried to run back inside to see what I could save and I got burned,” she said emotionally.
She said it happened in less than five minutes and her family of eight was now homeless.
Bennett said lanterns were not anything to play with.
She urged people to remember that they were for illumination for ships in the ocean that can’t find the shore, and were not meant to use on land.
She said lanterns were a fire hazard and could land anywhere and indiscriminately burn down someone’s house.
Bennett said many homes and lives were affected by that one reckless act and lantern.
As a result of the fire, she spent the first day of 2022 temporarily staying at the St Hilda’s Government Primary School waiting for word from members of her family who she’s expected to stay with.
Video of the fire showed plumes several metres high into the air and some residents could be heard telling fire officers that the blaze crossed the street and began burning houses on the other side.
Another witness, Onika Pasqual-Medina, who is attached to the Port-of-Spain CID said she went up on her roof to record the fireworks and saw a red object floating in the night sky.
She reported that she watched the fire lantern touch down on a roof and a fire broke out.
Pasqual-Medina recounted shouting fire to alert the people in the road but they could not hear her over the noise of the fireworks. She told a relative to call the T&T Fire Service, then she ran down the steps to try and assist but the blaze engulfed the houses rapidly as they were mainly wooden structures.
Nicholas Greene and his fiancee Anastacia Grant escaped their burning house unharmed and managed to save their pet dog, everything else they owned was consumed by the fire.
He said he was thankful for life; it could have been worse but at the same time it was ‘not nice.’
Greene said that fireworks should be banned.
Grant related that they still had to quantify their losses including a refrigerator, computer, large screen television, PS3, school books, stove, beds, furniture and wardrobe.
She said people were reaching out to help them as best as they can but noted it will take time.
She too called for a ban on fireworks.
Brian McKenzie was sleeping in his house when his brother alerted him to the fire.