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Businesses rocked by fire damage

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Taking it in: Gavin Smith and Najib Chentouf of Chewstick with their iconic microphone, recovered from the wreckage by firefighter Max Burgess (pictured) along with Sergeant Shannon Casey and lieutenant Aaron Denkins (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

Owners of the Chewstick charity were left heartbroken after the huge fire destroyed its home as well as priceless artefacts and archives.

Fire, smoke and water devastated the group and its belongings, only a year after it moved into new premises at 81 Front Street.

Gavin Smith, founder and executive director of the charity dedicated to nurturing arts in the community, told The Royal Gazette: “The stuff that can’t be replaced — the cultural artefacts, historical archives, archives of Chewstick going back 13 years and beyond, that have been donated over the years — the thought of starting all over again and the opportunity that this had presented, that’s what hurts the most.

“I am heartbroken. Not just for the Chewstick Foundation, but for the volunteers, donors, companies, and families that gave so much to the dream and opportunity of the Chewstick Culture Hub.

“I am heartbroken for Bermuda. This space had only just begun to deliver its mission to be a home of healing and understanding for our polarised community and I am saddened at this dream deferred, while strengthened, humbled and grateful for the outpouring of love and support, from near and far.

“I hope we may recover from this incredible loss, and will keep the public informed as best we can as we learn the full extent of the damages.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Bermuda Fire Service and the Bermuda Police Service for their incredible response and compassion throughout the ordeal, as well as the general public for their patience and concern as the incident unfolded.”

Chewstick also said that all events scheduled to take place at the Culture Hub are cancelled until further notice.

On its Facebook page, it called for support from “the Chewfam and broader community”, by making donations via www.chewstick.org/online-donation.

Queen Management Services, at 77 Front Street, which consists of about seven businesses, also suffered significant damage. Anthony Mocklow, of Queen Management, said that temporary office space had been provided for them at the nearby technology company Fireminds in Innovation House, the old Montpelier Re.

Queen Management, which also owns Atlantic Caregiving and Island Bargains of Bermuda, issued a statement thanking first responders, clients, staff and supporters for their support following today’s devastating fire at its 77 Front Street offices.

“The most important thing is that all of our employees are safe and we are grateful to the Bermuda Fire Service and the Police for their efforts to contain the fire,” owner Dawn Zuill said.

“Our team has rallied together in temporary accommodation and is operating normally, and delivering all of our services to our customers and we hope to have more permanent accommodation in the coming days.”

A spokesman from Fireminds said in a statement: “We implemented our disaster recovery plan at 5.30am, to physically ensure the safety of our staff, as well as the safety of our data and client projects.

“Luckily, Innovation House has not been harmed in the fire, but due to safety reasons, we have elected to work from our data centre at Ideation House.

“Fireminds has been assisting the fire department through providing access to Innovation House, so that fire teams and hoses could get to the backside of the fire.”

Fireminds CEO Michael Branco stated: “We would like to assure our clientele that their systems have not been affected. Thankfully due to the hard work of the Bermuda Fire & Rescue team the fire was unable to spread to Innovation House.

“We are thankful that no lives were lost and are assisting businesses who were impacted by the fire.”

The Cabinet Office, temporarily in Innovation House, the Information Commissioner’s Office on Reid Street and Butterfield Bank’s head office were shut as a result of road closures.

An island rocked: the devastating fire on Front Street (Photograph by David Skinner)