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Police not ruling out Front Street arson

The aftermath: construction workers assess the damage from the Front Street fire (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Arson has not been ruled out as the cause of the devastating fire that destroyed Onion Jack’s and seriously damaged surrounding stores on Front Street, police have revealed.

Detectives are still working closely with the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service to determine the cause of the blaze that swept through 77-81 Front Street in July.

A Police spokesman confirmed yesterday that investigators were still keen to obtain further CCTV footage from the fire and urged eyewitnesses to come forward.

“The Bermuda Police Service is working closely with the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service, who are actively investigating as the lead agency in this enquiry,” the spokesman said.

“At this stage arson has not been ruled out and investigators are seeking additional public assistance by way of eye witnesses, closed-circuit television footage that may be available or any other information — no matter how insignificant it may seem.

“We would like to thank the public for their assistance thus far and encourage anyone with any information regarding the July 21, 2016 fire on Front Street to contact Lieutenant Aaron Denkins at the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service on 292-5555.”

The blaze on July 21 tore through Onion Jack’s tourist store, Chewstick Culture Hub and multiple businesses under the umbrella of Queen Management Services.

No one was injured in the incident, which began prior to the working day at about 4.30am.

The fire deprived Hamilton of one of two Georgian-era buildings, which was one of Front Street’s first three-storey edifices covering a 50ft lot, according to the Bermuda National Trust.

It was built in 1821, offering ground floor retail spaces and residences on the upper floors. Largely wooden, it was home to Thomas J. Tucker, a merchant in the late 19th century. Its upper storeys were leased to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, which moved to Albuoy’s Point in 1933.

Later businesses included the J.B. Astwood cycle store and J. Howard Cooper’s provision store. The building’s reliance on wood ultimately fuelled its undoing, as fire tore through the structure for hours until firefighters quelled the blaze.

The premises has since been completely levelled by construction crews.

A spokeswoman for Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service said: “The investigation into the fire on Front Street is still ongoing.”