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Two Fires Hit City: Girl dies, Hundreds homeless

A Calamba resident pours water on his own house to protect against the approaching flames. Ferdinand Edralin

CEBU, Philippines - Close to 300 families have been left homeless when a fire broke out yesterday morning in barangay Calamba resulting to damage estimated to be worth P4.8 million.

A three-year-old girl died while her mother sustained burns in another fire that hit sitio Siwak, barangay Bulacao last night.

Authorities said that as of 7 p.m., they have listed 271 families or 1,217 individuals affected and 162 houses destroyed in the Calamba fire.

Fire investigators said that an unattended electric fan might have caused the fire that readily spread as the houses in the two sitios that were severely affected were mostly made of light materials.

Early estimates show that about 100 houses have been totally destroyed.

Cebu City Fire Marshal Esmael Codilla said the fire razed almost all houses in sitios Almacin and Alsika and also caused damage in sitios Cup Grass and San Roque.

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The Cebu City Fire Station received the call for assistance at 10:23 a.m. The fire was controlled 48 minutes later.

Task Force Bravo was raised and fire trucks from the neighboring cities of Cebu responded to the alarm.

Investigating officer SFO2 Roylin Maratas traced the origin of the fire to the house of a couple Tommy Catabay and Rosnel Gabasa located at the back of Papa’s Grill restaurant.

A certain William Auman, told Maratas that more or less 30 minutes before the fire, he saw an electric fan inside the couple’s house that was left plugged on.

The couple, with two kids, was around 100 meters from home doing their laundry when the fire broke out.

Nearby residents said they just heard an explosion and later saw the blaze.

The couple vehemently denied the allegations that the fire started at their house due to an unattended electric fan.

They said they have not been using their electric fan because it was already damaged and noisy when used.

The couple will be invited today to have their statements on the incident taken.

Most of the residents reportedly were not able to save their belongings before the fire reached their homes because the fire immediately spread out.

Codilla admitted that fire trucks had difficulty in going into the fire scene due to the very narrow roads.

The fire fighters encountered several dead ends forcing them to destroy some concrete walls just to penetrate the area and they also had to connect their hoses.

Maratas said that luckily nobody died in the incident, but one Arnel Lantape, a trisikad driver and owner of one of the razed houses, was electrocuted after holding onto a wire from an electrical post of Visayan Electric Company (VECO).

Personnel from the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation (ERUF), who were in the area in case of casualties assisted the victim and took him to the hospital.

Cebu City Vice Mayor Michael Rama, who went to the area, said they will extend assistance to the affected families.

Elements from the Cebu City Police Office led by Sr. Supt. Patrocinio Comendador also went to the area to put up a cordon and watch out for those who take advantage of the situation and steal from fire victims.

Two weeks ago, appliances left unattended were believed to have caused an afternoon fire in sitio Ipil-ipil, barangay Carreta that damaged around 20 houses.

Bulacao Fire

In last night’s fire, Codilla said that the fatality, identified as Jona Tabura, was sleeping on the second floor of their house while her mother, Mary Jane, was tending their store on the ground floor when the fire started.

Firemen said that the blaze was probably caused by a candle that was left by Mary Jane inside the room of the child.

She tried to rush to the second floor to save her daughter, but failed. Instead she sustained burns on the face and other parts of the body and was rushed to the Cebu City Medical Center.

Three other houses were burned. There is no estimate of the damage yet.

Fire in Talisay

In another incident, fire authorities pegged the damage at P50,000 in a fire that hit the stockroom owned by a businessman in Uldog, sitio Nonoc, barangay Tabunok, Talisay City.  

The fire hit the stockroom owned by Willy Magbutay at dawn yesterday.

SFO1 Bobby dela Cerna, investigator of the Talisay City Department, said that the fire was easily controlled, but all the stocks inside the warehouse were burned.

He said the contents were mostly food items like rice, cooking oil and other stuff sold at the owner’s store.

 The fire probers are also working with the police as they suspect that the motive was theft as they noticed that there was a well-cut hole on the gate.

Witnesses also said that they saw a pick-up truck flee from the scene when the fire started. — with Gabriel Bonjoc/NLQ (THE FREEMAN)

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