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Fishy fire

Fuming vendors claim arson after market burnt for third-straight year near Christmas

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, November 08, 2017


Like clockwork, the 'Ray Ray Market' in downtown Kingston was gutted by fire yesterday for the third consecutive year in the weeks leading up to the busy commercial Christmas season.

The early morning blaze, which destroyed approximately 200 stalls and damaged two buildings, aroused suspicion and led to accusations of arson.

Yesterday morning when the Jamaica Observer visited the market district some vendors fought to hold back tears while others wept openly.

Vendor Carol Gibson, who was obviously frustrated by the annual fire, complained that every year at this time the market is set ablaze.

“I was at home about 7:15 am when mi call the barrel man to carry out the barrel. Him say down here flat,” Gibson related, adding that she had been anticipating the festive season and had already begun making preparations.

“Wi plan say wi a come out and start early,” she said.

Vendor Elaine Dixon, who was waiting with bated breath to see a representative from the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) to voice her frustration, said she was fed up with the series of fires.

“A wickedness this wi a face. Every year a fire; mi tyad a it. Mi a come try mek mi livelihood only to hear say fire burn down the market again,” Dixon exclaimed.

Last year October the vendors were devastated after their stalls and goods were destroyed by fire.

In November 2015 the market was also destroyed by fire.

An Observer report on that occasion, published on November 21, highlighted a vendor's claim that the market was deliberately razed.

“Criminal burn it down. Is four time in the 18 months dem burn down this section of the market, and we want authorities to get to the bottom of this once and for all,” the vendor said at the time.

Yesterday, Jamaica Fire Brigade Superintendent Kevin Haughton said firefighters received a call at 4:32 am and dispatched units from York Park, Stony Hill, and Half-Way-Tree fire stations.

Sixty-nine-year-old Eugene Smith wept openly as she surveyed the damage. She explained that selling goods in the market was her only source of income.

Vendor Shelly Ann Ingram was equally devastated. She said that after her mother fell ill she took over the stall which helped her to take care of her disabled parents and her two children.

The 42-year-old said she was at home getting ready when she received a phone call that the market had been destroyed.

Dixon said that the registration and market fees paid to the KSAMC were going to waste as vendors had never received any assistance from the corporation.

Another vendor, Shallene Ann Walker, agreed and joined her colleagues in claiming that yesterday's fire had been deliberately set. They have called on the KSAMC to investigate the matter.

Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams, along with representatives from the corporation, toured the market yesterday to evaluate the damage.

“The issue is really that we are just ahead of the Christmas season, which is important for the vendors. It is a time of the year they look forward to,” Mayor Williams said. “Any decision we make now we will have to take that into consideration. The decision we make now may be short term, just to pass the Christmas season. After that we will be looking at really how do we utilise the space to enhance security and safety and to enhance the image of the city.”

He, too, suggested that the fires were the acts of arsonists.