Everyone Safe After Christmas Eve Fire Near Lima Church

Christopher Dunn, OFM Around the Province

LIMA, Peru — Christmas Eve was marked by a smoky fire in a house and small mom-and-pop store across the street from Our Lady of Lourdes Church here, that had many people fearing the parish was ablaze. About 40 minutes before the 7 p.m. Mass, the fire broke out. Police quickly asked me for a hose to fight the flames.

The family has a canned goods/produce store and beach sandal workshop. The fire originated in the rubber material for the sandals in the backyard. A very large crowd was attracted by the huge amount of smoke, many fearing the church was on fire. The rapid-moving fire was quickly put out by neighbors and police, with no injuries, and the church’s three Masses took place. 

Firefighters from the national volunteer service arrived about 20 minutes later from Chorrillos to help with cleanup. While there have been fires in the area before, this is believed to be the first time the fire department has responded to a fire. Due to the lack of adequate fire department coverage, water or plumbing installations, and the precarious state of many homes, fire terrorizes the poor areas on the outskirts of Lima.

FIRE24DEC07-1LRGBusiness Estimates Loss at US $5,100
Fausto Ccapcha, owner of the business, believes he lost about US $5,100 in sandal-making material, just as the summer beach season is beginning. In Lima, many families have small or medium-sized cottage industries in their homes, including sandal workshops, carpentry shops, corner stores, industrial /electrical/transformer/building, canned goods and produce stores, appliance repair workshops, restaurants, pig  farms, auto body shops, mechanics, shoe-maker workshops, and junk-collectors or recycling.

I had to take a very quick shower before Mass because I was covered with mud from hauling a garden hose across the sand-covered, unpaved road. At one point, there was some fear that a propane gas tank might explode. It was good to see how the neighbors got together to put out the flames before the fire department could arrive and how they protected the family from attempted robberies during confusion during the fire.

 Fr. Christopher is pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church.