Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Mar 07, 2017
A day after a massive fire spread from the nearby city dump and chased them from their homes, Jubilee Gardens residents yesterday returned to find charred backyards and smoked filled houses.
Ingrid Forbes, a mother of four, found her home damaged by the smoke; the bathroom covered in soot.
Forbes, who has been living in the area for 12 years, said, “This here, this is the worst, and I was very afraid to come home and find my house in this condition.
“We had a lot of stuff down in the back there, which could have been avoided, but right now I don’t even know what to say.
“Right now, I can’t even describe how I’m feeling.”
Forbes said she managed to get her two young children, a teenager and her handicapped adult son, out before things got too dangerous on Sunday.
She then returned to secure the house by hosing down the roof.
“I was hosing down the roof and then this big ball of flame came forward,” she said.
“We had to run forward. By the time I pulled my car out, a big ball of smoke and fire came over. That was a disaster.
“I was afraid. I could hardly walk because you couldn’t see anything. Like I said, it was the worst.”
Forbes said she did not risk sleeping at home on Sunday night.
Yesterday morning, safely tucked away at her mother’s house, her children were unable to go to school because they had no access to uniforms, other personal items or supplies.
She indicated that they might be out for the rest of the week.
Just a few houses down from Forbes, Julie Johnson said she was horrified to return yesterday morning to find her home filled with smoke and her backyard destroyed.
“It’s horrible,” she said.
“When I came back I was crying to see the backyard, because people were sending me pictures of my house.
“Just to see the backyard on fire, it was horrifying.
“To know that you put so much into it and then you come home to nothing.
“It’s really bad”.
Johnson said her family cannot bear to stay in those conditions as long as the fire and smoke persist.
“We cannot stay in the house because the smoke is horrible and a few of them in here have asthma, so we can’t,” Johnson said.
“Last night it was really, really bad.
“We evacuated from 3 o’clock yesterday, but we weren’t expecting it to get this bad.
“This is the worst we have ever seen it.
“The smoke was horrible. We couldn’t breathe.
“The smoke was black, it was horrible”.
Johnson and her family have also been living in Jubilee Gardens for 12 years.
She said although there was no major structural damage, there was extensive smoke damage inside the house.
Like Forbes’ home, it is not livable.
Although many residents evacuated, a few chose to stay to ensure their investments were secured.
James Rahming, Dwight Stubbs and Quincy Johnson, who are next door neighbors, were among those who stayed.
Rahming, a resident of 21 years, said his family evacuated, but he refused to leave.
“What I [am] saying right, if my house burns down, let me be in that,” he said.
“Let me be there. If anything, I [am] going down with that.
“I have investment in that. I don’t know who [doesn’t] have investment in [their] own, but I have a lot of investment in that. So my investment comes first.”
Stubbs, who has lived in the neighborhood for 22 years, said he and his family of four stayed in the house.
“I stayed to try to protect my property, because to me this is something we always go through around here,” he said. “This is nothing new.
“But the mere fact is we need to get together as the homeowners in this area. We need to combat certain situations, and get the committees back in order.”
He added, “We need urgent help in the back here.”
Stubbs said the area should have wells and pumps.
Johnson, whose family of three slept in one room, said they had a restless night.
He said they had to wake up every half hour to ensure the fire had not reignited.
He describe his hours of fighting the fire on Sunday.
“In all my life, one thing I have never experienced was what I experienced yesterday,” Johnson said.
“When there is fire and you can feel the hair on your hand getting [singed].
“[You’re] fighting one section of the fire, and when you look the fire drops somewhere else.
“You go there, but when you get back, [the] fire [is] over there.
“It was just like it was dropping like pieces of balls and it was just catching.
“At one point, I was putting out the fire with my hands, because the time you take to go run for water, a fire already lit somewhere else.”
Homes weren’t the only structures threatened by the blaze and smoke.
Aquinas College, which is located on Gladstone Road, was closed yesterday and the Catholic Mission canceled its service last night.
Gladstone Freight Terminal also closed its doors due to the thick smoke.
And Nikita Oliver, supervisor of Tropical Gyros, said business was impacted greatly because there was still very little visibility on the road.
According to officials yesterday, the fire was contained, but the strong winds were still creating major challenges.
Officials said smoke will likely continue to emanate from the fire for the next five to seven days due to the windy weather conditions.