May 23, 2005 V.I. Fire Service officials are investigating a fire that consumed a wooden structure in Long Path, St. Thomas, near Garden Street Saturday night.
The building was home to several squatters, area residents told firemen responding to the scene.
According to Merwin Potter, Fire Service director, the fire was reported at about 8 p.m. Saturday. Potter said because of the size of the fire all units responded, including a fire truck from the V.I. Port Authority's airport station. Seven trucks were at the scene trying to quell the fire.
Potter could not say how long it took before the first truck arrived at the scene, but said there was some difficulty due to the narrow streets of the downtown area.
"The building was fully engulfed by the time the first unit got there," Potter said.
At least 20 firefighters aided in extinguishing the fire, he added.
Potter said at first the firefighters were concerned about smoke inhalation and damage to the other properties. But he added, "The guys did an outstanding job. They were able to keep the fire contained to the building."
Potter said the building was destroyed and his agency was now working on obtaining a demolition permit to knock down the remains. No one was in the building at the time it caught fire, and Potter said the Fire Services did not know who lived there.
"We suspect arson based on comments from the residents in the area," Potter said.
The Fire Service director said a man was apprehended by the Arson Investigation Unit in connection to the fire and was questioned by police. However, the police blotter does not list any arrests in connection with arson. Police did not return calls Monday to confirm whether anyone had been arrested in connection with the fire.
Potter said the narrow streets of certain areas in St. Thomas could pose a problem for fire trucks when incidents occur in those areas. He said he was grateful to the Long Path residents who quickly removed their vehicles parked on the street to allow the trucks to pass.
Potter said, "I was quite happy because [the fire] could have gotten out of hand if the trucks were not able to access the area."
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