Falmouth Fire Victims' Tragedy turns to Praise

Posted on May 19 2015

It was a tragic experience for three families who lost their houses in fire weeks ago in Falmouth Gardens, Trelawny. However, two family members are now singing high praises to God for sending help to repair their homes.

“I am so grateful”, said Mrs. Sonia Clarke, whose house at the upstairs was destroyed by fire. “I don’t have enough words to express how thankful I am to God for the help received from the Seventh-day Adventist Church members and others who came right on time. The kind of help we got was totally overwhelming.”

According to the online gleaner publication dated April 26, 2015, the fire started on Friday, April 24, 2015 in one of the houses at about 11:00 p.m. and quickly spread to two adjoining houses and gutted them.  A unit that responded from the Falmouth station of the Jamaica Fire Brigade developed mechanical problems and was unable to provide assistance. Another unit from the Ironshore station in St James responded but was too late to save any of the houses.

One of three houses ablaze in Falmouth Gardens in Falmouth, Trelawny (Photo contributed. Source -gleaner online)

A Seventh-day Adventist and community member, Yvonne Rattray, witnessed the blaze, “There was nothing we could do. Persons came by and were able to quickly assist in removing some downstairs items from the houses.  Others tried to put out the blaze, but that didn’t work. Fear, panic and tears overwhelmed many, including the owners who stood by and saw everything they owned going up in smoke.”

Recognizing the great loss, the Adventists who had already made their Sabbath preparations for church, were the first on the scene at day-break Saturday. “We took our brooms, hoses, shovels and began to help,” continued Yvonne.

When Pastor Carlington Hylton of the Falmouth District of Churches heard the news he quickly came on the scene, “We just ended a crusade in that community and to hear this news, it is sad,” he said. Recognizing the plight of the 12 family members, Hylton changed his preaching schedule in Spring Gardens, opting instead, with rolled up sleeves to assist.

“Here it is, that there were people who had nothing to eat, nowhere to live, nowhere to sleep. So guess what, in addition to all that was being done, I just went to the store and bought a mattress for one of the victims.”

According to the Minister of Religion, he said that this is what Jesus expects from us. “It’s not fair to say you worship God, but when someone is in a crisis, you pass them by because it is the Sabbath (Luke 14:1-6). Like our Saviour, we can do good even on the Sabbath day.”

Pastor Carlington Hylton looking at the new roof of the green (on the left) and peach (on the right) houses that were destroyed by fire.  lnfront of  the houses lie debris to be removed. The house in the middle is not yet restored.(Photo by Dyhann Buddoo-Fletcher)

A donation was received on the spot to reroof two of the houses. The benevolence spurred more work that Saturday morning which attracted more Adventists and several community volunteers. By sunset Saturday, one family could move back into their home.

Standing in awe, was Kericia Finlayson who weeks before, was invited to the evangelistic campaign in Falmouth Gardens. However, she had a bad experience a few months before with an Adventist which made her vow to never put her foot into a Seventh-day Adventist Church.  But, after witnessing the benevolence at the scene of the fire from the Adventists, she was singing a different tune.

“I have to start coming to church, because during this experience, I saw some real Christians. I never knew that Adventists have this kind of love. I am so thrilled! The Pastor came into his jacket and helped. When he came he looked so ‘lost,’ but he came with a blessing. I love what the Pastor and the members did for us.”

Also overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness was Shana Tingling, “The joy I am now experiencing is wonderful. I too, turned down the invitation from Pastor Hylton to attend the evangelistic meetings. However, the Thursday before the fire, I found myself asking someone this question, ‘What will it take for God to prove himself to you?’ and then, I heard a voice saying, ‘including yourself.’

Shana continued, “Then, the fire started Friday night. I rushed outside with my children and when I saw it spreading from upstairs to downstairs. I immediately cried out to God in desperation, ‘No Lord, not downstairs!’ The fire just turned away immediately. I was shocked.”

 “Can God answer so quickly?” Asked Shana. “This is indeed a wakeup call for me; I want to give my life to God.”

Shana Tingling, one fire victim, shows Pastor Carlington Hylton her renovated room, previously destroyed by fire. (Photo by Dyhann Buddoo-Fletcher)

Also offering his assistance was His Worship the Mayor, Councillor Garth Wilkinson. He said, “What we did was to help purchase material and provided workmen as well.  I am pleased that the community and the Seventh-day Adventist Church were able to help these family members in this crisis.”

Since then, approximately 70% of the renovations were completed on two homes.  Assistance also came from North Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists; Member of Parliament, Patrick Atkinson, Q.C.; The National Housing Trust; schools and private persons.

The damage has been estimated at J$20 Million and is suspected to have been triggered by an electrical overload.



In front of their house, Mr. Gauntlet Clarke, his daugther, Camille and wife, Sonia with Pastor Carlington Hylton.  The upstairs and downstairs rooms gutted by fire are currently under renovation.(photo: Dyhann Buddoo-Fletcher)


Story by Dyhann Buddoo-Fletcher