Here is a story I wrote about the second oldest resort on Ambergris Caye which sustained a near total loss. The story was submitted to CNN and the National Newspaper in Belize City. Some of my story was used as quotes and most of my pictures were used in Belize, since I was out of country without access to CNN, I don’t know if they used anything. When I contacted them by email, they responded asking for story and pictures, they would consider it a “Citizen Reported Story”, guessing so they wouldn’t have to pay me. Following is the story with pictures.
Luxury Resort goes up in Flames, August 27, 2013
Leaning against a pier rail, listening to the soft hypnotic sounds of the calm Caribbean swishing ashore, staring at the sky filled with stars as bright as I’ve ever seen, I realized that this is what people mean when they tell me they live in paradise. As I glanced over toward the few lights left twinkling in San Pedro town, I saw a huge orange cloud of smoke billowing into the night sky, followed by a massive fireball. Oh my God I thought, something big is on fire in this little tourist village. Without a second thought, I began running along the beach toward the scene. Little did I realize that I was about to witness the largest fire to have ever occurred on the island of Ambergris Caye.
Upon my arrival at the fire I observed two very old and inadequate fire trucks. There was also a bucket brigade consisting of approximately one hundred people, similar to movies of a long ago era. Buckets of water were being passed from the Caribbean, then person to person to the blazing buildings. I noticed one of the fire trucks was sitting idle. Why were they not using it I thought to myself? I asked a firefighter and learned that the pump on this truck quit almost as soon as they hooked it up. He then rushed off into the compound with me close behind. When we got deep into the compound we came upon the other fire truck’s single 4” hose manned by a couple of firemen, leading a group of approximately 20 citizens. They frantically wound their way around the blazing compound trying to get the fire under control. Their efforts, though gallant were having little to no effect on this massive fire. Somehow in all the chaos the neighboring buildings to the south of the compound did not catch on fire. This can most likely be attributed to the fact that they were constructed of concrete.
Observing that there were at least two hundred people already trying to assist the firefighters to the point of being a hindrance, I decided to record this Hellish fire, reigning down on paradise.
The next day I was invited to a press conference held by Mr. Eier Gomez, General Manager of Ramon’s Village Resort and Dive Center for the past 20 years. Struggling to keep his composure, he explained the resort is his second home, and the 70 employees part of his family. Ramon’s Village is the second oldest resort on Ambergris Caye dating back to 1987. Back then, San Pedro was little more than a sleepy little fishing village. Located approximately one quarter mile off shore, is the second longest barrier reef in the world. It was fast becoming a mecca for SCUBA diving and big game fishing. Mr. Ramon wanting to preserve the look and feel of a small fishing village, built rustic, island style cabanas constructed of wood frames, bamboo siding and thatched roofs. The theme was so successful, that Ramon’s Village grew to 70 guest rooms in approximately 30 cabanas. The registration desk, office, restaurant and all the buildings in the center of the compound were constructed similarly. Quaint yes, but as wood ages and dries out it becomes a tinder box waiting for the inevitable disaster to happen.
Major losses occurred from this raging inferno, but by the grace of God, no lives were lost or major injuries were sustained. Twenty-nine guest rooms vaporized in the flames and all operations buildings within the compound were destroyed. Estimated financial loss will be approximately eight million dollars. Forty guest rooms and the dive shop located on the pier were spared.
How fortunate that there was only a light breeze out of the North East that night or the whole Village may have gone up in flames as well as neighboring buildings. Phone service and water to the village is already restored, Wi-Fi and utilities should be on within a few days. Mr. Ramon assured every one of his 70 employees that they will be not laid off, and will continue to receive their paychecks. Current and future guests are being offered rooms at nearby resorts or refunds. The resort will be rebuilt better than before, and continue to be a major icon on the beautiful island of Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Frank Briscoe is currently on a bicycle ride through the Central American country of Belize. The fire took place on the island of Ambergris Caye, the largest of 200 Cayes off the coast of Belize. Frank is a bicycle adventurer and a Freelance Travel Writer. He gained access to the fire scene with a Press Pass while the place was a raging inferno, and was able to capture many up close photos. Many of his pictures appeared on Channel 5 News TV in Belize City, and submitted to CNN per their request. Since he was the only journalist in the compound during the blaze, LOVE TV interviewed him for their 6:00 PM broadcast on August 28.