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BF&M on the hook for fire damage

Devastating blaze: firefighters battle the flames on Front Street early yesterday morning (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Island insurer BF&M will pick up the tab for the fire that tore through a Front Street store and offices in the early hours of yesterday.

But the insurer declined to speculate on the likely cost of the blaze, which virtually destroyed the building, or who owned it.

John Wight, president and chief executive officer of BF&M, said: “I can confirm that in respect of the dangerous fire this morning, BF&M is the insurer of the property however we cannot disclose details that relate to a client matter.” He added: “Events are unrolling and these matters are sometimes difficult to deal with.

“What I can say is that the response of the Fire Service to this incident was tremendous, and they need to be commended for controlling the blaze and preventing it from spreading further than it did, and causing potentially catastrophic damage that would have affected other buildings as well.”

The building was home to Onion Jack’s and the Queen Management companies, made up of Bermuda Executive Services, Atlantic Caregiving and Island Bargains, and the cultural centre Chewstick.

The fire also caused extensive smoke and water damage to insurance company Freisenbruch Meyer, which is based next door to the affected building.

William Madeiros, general manager of Freisenbruch Meyer, said the company would operate from the Chubb building on Hamilton’s Woodbourne Avenue from 9am today until repair work had been carried out on the firm’s offices.

He added: “The wall that faced the conflagration is damaged and the windows on that side of the building are burnt out.

“Our building is full of water and smoke — but we have a disaster recovery plan and we’re moving forward.”

But he added: “All our data is safe and all our staff is safe.

“We expect the office to be out of commission for an extended time. It’s a real mess — thank heavens it’s not worse, but it’s a real mess.”

He said: “All of our clients’ data and records are secure and we will be operational as of 9am on Friday as part of our disaster recovery plan.

“We will be serving our clients from Woodbourne Avenue until it’s safe to come back home.”

Mr Madeiros added that Freisenbruch Meyer insured itself against damage.

He said: “We have reason to believe they will be swift and fair in the settlement of their client’s claim.”

And he added: “The good news is that from a structural perspective, the building is there, although there is a small section of roof damaged by fire.

“This will be of some significance, but certainly, very generally, not a life-altering event.”

And he also praised the Fire Service for preventing the spread of the fire to adjoining buildings on the tightly-packed Front Street.

Mr Madeiros said: “To do what they did is just unbelievable. These guys are first class.

“We are very fortunate, we’re very blessed. The Fire Service did us proud this morning. The building next door, sadly, is categorised as being gone.”

Businesses on Front Street and Reid Street, forced to close as sections of the streets were cordoned off as a result of the fire, may have also claims if they have business interruption insurance.

A spokeswoman for insurers Argus said: “At this time, Argus does not appear to have any direct exposure to this morning’s fire on Front Street.

“It is still too early to determine the extent of the damage and it is possible that Argus clients may have experienced smoke damage or other issues as a result of the fire.”

She added that any Argus clients affected should contact the firm’s customer service centre on 298-0888 to discuss their situation.

And the spokeswoman said: “As always, we will handle all inquiries promptly and efficiently in an attempt to minimise further inconvenience resulting from this distressing event.

“We extend our sympathies to the businesses that were affected and wish everyone involved a safe and smooth recovery.”

A spokesman for Colonial Insurance said: “We have a number of businesses insured in the area of the fire.

“We have spoken with our clients but it is too soon to provide any assessment of the property damage or consequential loss.”