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Investigators find strong evidence of arson at Cummings Street building

The hole in the wall behind Ram's Pharmacy that investigators believed the arsonist used to enter the building and set the blaze.

The hole in the wall behind Ram’s Pharmacy that investigators believed the arsonist used to enter the building and set the blaze.

Police and fire fighters believe the early Sunday morning blaze that gutted a section of a building on Cummings Street two doors north of Regent Street was the work of an arsonist.

“We are working on that theory (arson) because of what we saw. There is evidence of some forced entry into the building,” he said. “We are hearing persons smelling the strong scent of gasoline just before the fire started ; that’s why I am seeing this fire as a suspected arson at this time,” Fire Chief Marlon Gentle said.

Gentle said this is the third fire call at that building in recent years, one of which included the discovery of a bucket with flammable substance that was also used to soak the carpet.

He said there is evidence of forced entry to the lower flat of the building owned by former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) officer, Oliver Hinckson.  Investigators have so far found a hole that was made in the concrete wall aback Ram’s Drug Store.

‘A’ Division Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner Clifton Hicken told Demerara Waves Online News that police arrived on the scene about four minutes after receiving a call from the Guyana Fire Service. They pursued a suspect who was running away from the scene, but according to Hicken, the man escaped from the lawmen.

Sources said police have so far interviewed a vagrant who was outside the building when smoke began emanating. He said he did not see anyone but detected the smell of gasoline that was coming from inside the building.

One of the business owners later arrived on the scene with associates and removed a large number of items from the variety store

A vehicle carting off items from one of the stores housed in the fire-affected building

A vehicle carting off items from one of the stores housed in the fire-affected building

.The Fire Chief praised police in ‘A’ Division for cordoning off the area and preventing persons from crowding the fire scene so that fire fighters were able to perform their duties uninhibited.  He also credited the Guyana Water Incorporated with increasing water pressure to the area. “We had excellent support from the GWI in that all of the  hydrants on Regent Street were boosted wit water pressure so we were able to use two strategies-bringing water from the North Road (canal) and as well as using the hydrants and this was very successful in containing the fire from spreading to other buildings,” he said.

A caretaker of the old wooden building at the corner of Regent and Cummings Street said he was driving around with the owner of Ram’s Drug Store viewing the Diwali celebration when the businessman learned of the fire. The caretaker said the businessman got confused and began call other persons on his phone.

Once the headquarters of Roraima Airways in its early days, the building houses the drug store,  boutique and cellular phone and variety store. Hinckson also believes that  the fire is the work of an arsonist.