Leslie Jakie, 65, was in shock yesterday not just because the home in which he lived half his life was gutted by fire, but by the rapid response of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) to find shelter for his family hours after losing everything they owned.
On Monday, just after 5 p.m., Jakie's family home, located at Johnny Street, Dinsley Village, Tacarigua, was destroyed by fire.
He told the Express yesterday that it appears that an electrical problem started the blaze in one of the bedrooms.
Jakie, his wife Joanne Charles-Jakie and their children—Camille, 29, Camelia, 16, Sheresa, 11, Chiwale, 13, Chris, nine, and Siara, seven—all lived in Tacarigua, as well as Camille's four children—Chelsey, 11, Zepheniah, eight, Marshel, three, and baby Niama, who is six weeks old.
Jakie said the house belonged to his wife—an inheritance from her grandmother.
His wife was born there while he moved in some 30 years ago.
"Everything burned in 15 minutes, we lost everything we owned in a few minutes," said Jakie.
He said there were three bedrooms in the house and each had two beds with double mattresses.
"It was a flat house, part board and part concrete," said Jakie, adding that the number of mattresses in the house would have "fed" the fire.
"I feel very sad to lose everything, especially on Old Year's, we buy food and even some money I had saving was gone."
Jakie, a carpenter by profession, said councillor Ria Boodoo assisted the family in getting mattresses and emergency supplies and they spent the night at a neighbour's house.
He said on New Year's Day, hours after the fire, at 9 a.m., he received word that his family would temporarily be housed at an HDC unit in Oropune, Piarco.
The Express visited the family yesterday at the three-bedroom apartment, where the children all wore sad faces but were relieved to have a place to call home.
Camille Jakie said she lived in a structure adjoining the family house on the same premises with her four children.
She said she heard her mother shouting and screaming and when she ran outside she saw a blaze.
"I immediately just started getting all the children out and rushing them to the neighbours.
"We lost everything but we are lucky to be alive," she added.
She said her young children are in need of milk and pampers.
Jakie said all his children and grand-children's school uniforms and books as well as computers were destroyed.
Two of his children are secondary school students.
"I buy a new computer for the children to use for the Christmas and the laptop my son get from the Government was also burnt.
"We are fighting right now to try and get back on our feet. I am glad for all the help we receive, I have no complaints...my place burn down on Old Year's and by New Year's nine o' clock in the morning I have a place for my family to stay," said Jakie as he thanked the HDC and all those who lent assistance.