The Guyana Fires Service on Thursday said its investigation into the fire which destroyed the Brickdam Police Station is now 85% complete and its investigators have so far concluded that it was an act of arson.
Lead Investigator and Fire Prevention Officer Sheldon Sauns told reporters at a news conference that his team of “expert” investigators relied heavily on statements they secured from inmates who were detained at the police station on that day.
But according to Sauns, none of those prisoners, including Clarence Greene, who the police said confessed to starting the fire, gave such a confession to him. Sauns said the fire service’s investigation started soon after the blaze was quelled on Saturday, October 2, with the cause determined by Sunday.
By that time, debris was already removed from the fire scene and sent for forensic analysis – a process that is still ongoing – and the inmates were interviewed. He could not say whether the fire service’s interviews took place before or after the police conducted theirs.
Removed among the debris was a piece of lighter, paper, and burnt wood. He said no wire or mattress were found by the fire service.
The police said Green confessed that he tore a piece of mattress which he attached to a wire before passing it through a hole used for ventilation. He then lit that mattress before dropping it onto a pile of paper into the Fraud Department; this department is housed in the main building of the police station.
Sauns confirmed that the distance between the cells and the main building was 1.5 feet and the fire started on the second floor of the main building. The Fire Service was tight-lipped about the details of those statements it secured but said police ranks were also interviewed along with persons who live close by.
“It was a coordinated effort among the Guyana Fire Service and the Guyana Police Force and several procedures were undertaken in trying to ascertain the cause of the fire,” Suans said.
He explained that it was the fire service that authorized the clearing and cleaning of the fire scene just hours after the fire but assured that the material area where the fire started was not affected.
Fire Chief (ag) Gregory Wickam said he was on vacation at the time of the fire but was called out to lend support. He now acts as Fire Chief after the substantive Fire Chief Kamaladeen Edoo was asked to proceed on leave amid the government’s stated dissatisfaction with his performance and response to the massive fire.
Wickam could not say how long he would act for but noted that there were details of the investigation that could not be released to the public. He assured it was thorough.
Asked about his own assessment of the fire service performance at the Brickdam fire, Wickam said “there were highs and lows” but noted that there is always room for improvement.
“We have a mandate to ensure we protect life and property during a fire… we need to take the necessary steps to improve our performance,” he added.