to the devastating fire in the clinic building caused by Carla
Black, Carla's electrician, and Estela Ritter:
Black had begged my permission for access to the clinic
building. She wanted to have her electrician to install a
high-powered breaker for the recycle group's powerful new,
expensive trash compactor. The new breaker had to be installed
inside the building.
On January 31, Carla informed me that she had already scheduled
her electrician for Saturday, February 4th. I was not pleased
about her request with such short notice.
Carla informed me that she would travel to the United States on
February 2nd (until February 17th), but she would appoint Estela
Ritter to be in charge. Carla said Estela is “an extremely
responsible person, 110% reliable.”
I was uneasy about the situation, but Carla promised me: The
clinic will be just the way you left it, except for a strip of
bare repello above the breaker box.”
reluctantly gave my permission after the following WhatsApp
messages to Carla Black:
being gone was not in our discussion or agreement, and I am not
pleased with this sudden surprise electrician schedule without
contacting me first. I hope you understand that to accommodate
you puts additional burdens on me. I feel like I've been coerced
into it to accommodate you. I am still uncomfortable about this.
I don't know Estela OR the electrician.
am usually not available on weekends, so I arranged for Rodrigo,
my employee, to be present during the installation. Rodrigo's
instructions were solely to prevent anyone except Estela Ritter
and Carla's electrician to enter the building. Rodrigo was not
there to supervise the installation or to help Estela or Carla's
message to Estela Ritter regarding my possessions inside the
building: "The first thing to do is arrange a group with
pickups who will clean everything and bring everything to my
The installation of their new breaker took several hours. At
4:00 pm, two hours after Estela Ritter and the electrician
finished, someone called me to report that smoke was coming from
the building. At first, I had no idea of the seriousness. I did
not have a car available, so I called Rodrigo, my employee, to
come get the keys from my house. I gave Rodrigo a fire
I was surprised when Rodrigo reported that firemen had already
arrived at the building. However, the firefighters could not go
inside until Rodrigo arrived to unlock and open the doors. It
turned out that a fire extinguisher wouldn't have helped. When I
was finally able to go to the building location that day, I was
shocked at the damage from fire, smoke, heat, and water. Many of
my belongings had been destroyed or rendered unusable by the
fire and the bombero's necessary actions to stop the fire.
Water, black soot, debris were everywhere.
See the destruction HERE.
WhatsApp messages to Carla Black and Estela Ritter on February
Carla in the United States): What the hell is next??? Someone
just called me and said smoke is coming from the clinic. I
called Rodrigo to come get the keys and I gave him a fire
extinguisher. My entire day has been shot! (It turned out that a
“fire extinguisher” wouldn't have helped; The firemen were
already at the building, but they could not get inside until
Rodrigo arrived to unlock and open the doors.
response: (6:27 pm, evening of their fire) -- I can't express my
disappointment about the fire today.
response: "Disappointed?" That's not the word that
comes to my mind!
6, 8:32 pm - (To Estela Ritter): .... remember that you owe
Rodrigo $20 for returning from his house in late afternoon.
“Response by Estela Ritter: “I didn’t ask Rodrigo to show
up on Saturday afternoon. Why should I pay him? (This is only
one example of Estela's "thought process.")
response to Estela (which she already knew): Rodrigo had to come
to open the clinic so that the bomberos could enter. Rodrigo did
not have the keys and I did not have a car available. He had to
come to my house and get the keys.
for Carla and Estela, a flashover did not occur. A flashover is
a phenomenon in which smoke and fire super heat an enclosed room
until everything inside reaches a simultaneous, explosive
A flashover very well could have happened because the firemen
couldn't get inside the building until Rodrigo came from his
house to my house, got the keys, and went to unlock the
Without Rodrigo's kindness and extra work, the entire facility
would have been destroyed, including their new expensive trash
Carla and Estela never did pay Rodrigo.
Rodrigo had hoarseness and a bad cough for 10 days because of
smoke inhalation when he opened the wooden door inward. When I
reported it to Estela, she essentially claimed Rodrigo and I
later discovered that Carla's electrician had “piggy-backed”
a high-powered new breaker to the building's “sub-code
wiring” (It was Carla who later stated the building has
sub-code wiring.) I had never thought about the wiring because I
had not had a problem during the the 15 years I had rented the
After the fire, and after I had given Estela keys to the
building, Carla's electrician apparently realized his mistake
and (so I've been told) created independent wiring to enable the
operation of Carla's high-powered new trash compactor. But that
was too little, too late.
Curious questions arise: Is Carla's electrician licensed? Why
did he initially piggy-back a powerful new breaker to the
building's “sub-code wiring?” Why did he land Estela leave
the breakers open when they finished? Did the fire inspector
from Bugaba ask any of these questions? If not, why not?
6 from Carla Black: “Someone has donated a desk.”
subsequently asked both Estela Ritter and Carla Black (several
times) about the desk. Despite their promises to bring it to me,
I have never seen the desk. Apparently someone with the group
has the desk.
February 11 from Carla Black: "They (Estela and her crew)
say the smell has almost disappeared with the thorough cleaning
of the walls and floors, and the removal of porous ceiling
materials." (Carla did not reutrn to Panama until February
"porous ceiling materials" were my insulation, not the
property of the building or the landlord.
(On April 3, 2023, the smoke odor remains in the building.)
after the fire, Carla claimed: If Dottie chooses to use it,
the space will be ready for occupancy no later than Friday
afternoon, in time for the regularly scheduled spay clinic on
Sunday February 19th.
It was mid-March before Carla and her group finished everything
they intended to do inside the building.
Carla has carefully worded her many attempts to mislead about
the cause of the fire. And also about the resulting
Carla: "The fire did not last long and did not go beyond
the wooden table and a few items in the area. There was damage
to some supplies due to smoke. Firefighters used minimal
See the "some damage" and "minimal water water HERE.
Black was absent from Panama from February 2nd to February 17th.
During that time, she had no first-hand knowledge about their
fire, the resulting damage to my property, or the subsequent
actions (or non-actions) of Estela Ritter, Carla's appointed
"person in charge."
Carla continues to spread “misinformation” in attempts to
deny her full responsibility for their fire--and her
responsibility for most of my significant financial losses
caused by their fire. The financial losses are from my own
An indirect but real additional cost due to their fire is the
many hours of time spent by my salaried employees while we had
to devote days upon days dealing with this fiasco. And of course
we had to neglect important work at my property all the
Carla's latest attempts to evade sole responsibility (that I
know of) continued in her March 14th publication.
Carla: “All three people present did not turn off the breakers
on March 4 (sic): the electrician , the TAR representative, and
(Carla's electrician caused the fire on February 4, not March
4 as Carla wrote.)
electrician was Carla's. The TAR representative was Estela
Ritter. My employee Carla mentions is Rodrigo.
Neither Rodrigo nor I thought to enter the building after
Carla's electrician and Estela Ritter finished the work. Nor
should we have needed to--because Carla promised on January 31:
“The clinic will be just the way you left it, except for a
strip of bare repello above the breaker box.”
“Just the way we left it” meant that the breakers were
(We had always closed the breakers, without fail, for the
past 15 years that I rented the building, just as we had done
after the January 15th clinic.)
Then came Carla's claim (thus trying to deflect sole responsibility for the fire): “A soldering iron was left plugged in and in contact with a wooden table after the last clinic.”
We closed the breakers when we cleaned everything after the January 15 clinic. We had made this a habit for 15 years. When we finished, there was NO ELECTRICITY in the building to cause a fire, no matter what “might” have been “plugged in.” They
caused the fire on February 4th, 20 days after our January 15th clinic.
Carla's representative, Estela Ritter, and Carla's electrician leaving the breakers open was the sole cause of the fire, no matter how Carla tries to spin it otherwise.
It is revealing how Carla has made, and continues to make, numerous claims about the fire and the resulting damage when she was not even in Panama from February 2nd until February 17th.
Portions of Carla's "report" follow. I've inserted my comments after some of Carla's claims.
Carla: Tierras Altas Recicla has taken these actions and made these investments to assure that the clinics can resume soon:
Dedicated approx. 20 hours to cleaning, painting and buying supplies:
FACT: All of their time spent was for the benefit of the landlord's building, not for me.
Cleaned the interior of the building thoroughly.
FACT: Benefit for the landlord.
Painted two and three coats.
FACT: Benefit for the landlord.
Installed a new window and hung new curtains.
FACT: Benefit for the landlord. Actually, the heat of the fire broke window panes in TWO windows. The "new" curtains were because mine were destroyed by the fire. I have left the wrinkled replacement curtains inside the building.
Removed all ruined materials from the property.
FACT: Carla is admitting they threw more than "large gauze pads" in the trash as she previously asserted.
Paint, window and installation, insulation and light, clinic supplies (see spreadsheet).
FACT :"Paint and window and installation" was for the benefit of the landlord. The insulation and
(LED) ceiling light were not the property of the landlord or the building.
Paid one month’s rent in order to gain access to the building and make repairs.
FACT: Paid one month's rent? Another blatant attempt at misdirection. I had already paid the February rent. My instructions to Carla and Estela Ritter were to reimburse ME for the February rent. Instead, as I accidentally discovered, Estela Ritter went behind my back and gave cash to the landlord, not to me. So the landlord received double the rent for February.
A metal table to replace the burned one will be delivered when the clinic moves in.
FACT: Here Carla references my stainless steel table that she previously denied was damaged from the fire. (She had asserted: "Metal does not corrode rapidly due to soot and heat. Any corrosion was present at the time of the fire.")
Now Carla is admitting that the table IS damaged. But interesting that Carla says she will replace the stainless steel table--my property--only IF I then use my property in the manner she dictates.
FACT: We had always completely cleaned everything in the building after a clinic. There was no damage or corrosion on the stainless steel table when we cleaned after the January 15th clinic.
Carla continued: "Tierras Altas Recicla offered four times to install the insulation, upgrade lighting wiring, and install any new lights that would benefit the clinic. All four offers were strongly rejected."
In that same March 14 "report," Carla repeated the same "misinformation,".but with her repetition, she also claimed that I was "rude."
"Tierras Altas Recicla offered to install the insulation, rewire the lighting and install any
additional lighting that Dottie might have wanted in the clinic. She rudely refused Carla three
times and rudely refused Marguerite Morris once. We will not participate further in the
installation of the insulation."
FACT: My so-called "rude” refusal was because Carla had IGNORED my instructions REPEATEDLY not to install he insulation and LED ceiling light because those two things did NOT belong to the building or to the landlord. Estela Ritter ignored my instructions as well.
Here was my response to Carla via WhatsApp with a copy to Estela, finally in capital letters, hoping Carla, Estela, and Marguerite Morris would finally pay attention and quit ignoring my directive. (This is only one example of the crazy-making “interactions” with Carla and Estela.)
HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU!!! The REPLACEMENT INSULATION IS TO BE GIVEN TO ME, NOT INSTALLED IN THE BUILDING. AND: THE IDENTICAL REPLACEMENT LED LIGHT IS TO BE GIVEN TO ME, NOT INSTALLED IN THE BUILDING. BOTH THOSE THINGS THAT WERE DESTROYED IN THE FIRE WERE MY PROPERTY, NOT THE PROPERTY OF THE BUILDING!
Carla: "We will not participate further in the installation of the insulation." This was another example of how Carla attempted to mislead. She intended for people to think that I unreasonably refused their "oh-so-kind offer." More "misdirection."
In addition, Carla did NOT offer to "install any additional lighting I might want." And I did NOT refuse permission for Carla to "rewire the lighting" or "upgrade lighting wiring."
In the spreadsheet included with Carla's same March 14th missive, Carla listed all the items she claimed she (her recycle group) had replaced or paid for.
Fact: Carla has replaced a few of my less expensive items ruined or damaged from their fire, but not even close to everything she lists on her "spreadsheet." And Carla refused to replace
ANY of my more expensive items.
Filled the largest of the old cracks in the floor at Dottie’s request.
FACT: There had been a few very minor cracks in the concrete floor before the fire.
But the heat caused additional very large and widespread cracks.
As of March 14, invested approx. $800 to ensure that the clinics can continue:
FACT: Very little of the $800 was for "the benefit of the
Fact: The minor payment of $177.50 to me by Carla (actually by Fundacion Grupo Reciclaje de Volcan) included $105 they owed to Dr. Tello for his sutures destroyed by the fire. The remaining $72.50 covered only a small portion of my ruined supplies, furniture, and equipment. The reimbursement was in the form of a check, which required even more of my time for a trip to the bank.
In addition to what was stored in the clinic building, I have probably a thousand dollars worth of medications and supplies in my house. Fortunately these were not stored in the clinic building, but of course all have expiration dates.
Carla continued: " We applied "two or three coats of paint" to cover the walls. We ran an ozone machine for 4 sessions of 2.5 hours each. (Again, Carla wasn't even in Panama while this work was allegedly taking place.)
IF Carla's paint claims and the ozone machine claims are true, it didn't work. After two months, there is still a harmful smoke odor in the building.
Carla: "The odor will take some time to disappear completely. It's a shame the room was closed for so long before clean-up could get started."
The room (building) "was closed for so long?" Their fire was late on Saturday. I spent Monday and Tuesday doing my best to compile a list of the damaged items in the building. I gave Estella Ritter the keys on the morning of Wednesday, February 7. Only three days later.
Then that Wednesday morning, Estela and her crew began to throw damaged items into the trash and to pile all of my other items outside the building. Everything that was otherwise undamaged was covered with black soot. Some of the items, which are still marginally usable, have permanent black smudges from the soot.
No one can comprehend the stress, work, time, and effort it took me to transport everything that wasn't destroyed by the fire to my property--and then to clean everything I had moved.
By the time we could start cleaning the piles even on the porch of my casita, rats had built nests in the mess.
The porch of my casita, my casita itself, and bedroom, and my shop are all filled with clinic furniture and supplies transported from the building.
(Days after the fact, Carla volunteered to "help clean.")
There is much more evidence regarding Carla's "misinformation," but I
will go forward from here and do what I can to help the animals.
Whatever happens, for the last 17 years it has been my honor to
serve the animals and the community.