: An aerial shot of the damage left by a fire that killed retired judge Gerardo Gestopa Jr. and his wife in Barangay Centro, Mandaue City yesterday.
Joy Torrejos
270 families displaced in Mandaue: Ex-judge, wife killed in blaze
Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Iris Hazel M. Mascardo (The Freeman) - February 18, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  A retired judge and his wife were found dead, while their grandson is still missing, in the wake of a fire that hit a residential compound in Barangay Centro, Mandaue City early dawn yesterday.

It was the first of the twin fires that broke out in the city in a span of about 12 hours, affecting an estimated 270 families.

Mandaue City Fire Station identified the fatalities from the first fire as retired judge Gerardo Gestopa Jr., 66, and wife Louella Gestopa, 67. Their grandson, Gerick Gestopa, 20, who has special needs, is still missing as of this writing.

SFO3 Antonio Montajes said the alarm was received at around 2 a.m. The owners of the compound where the fire erupted are the families of Gestopa, Ermac, and Lumapas.

Montajes said the fire started in the room occupied by the Lumapas family.

The fire was raised to second alarm at around 2:04 a.m., upon the arrival of the firefighters. It was then raised to third alarm at around 2:32 a.m. and was further raised to fourth alarm at around 2:41.

The fire was placed under control at around 3:05 a.m. and was finally declared out at around 3:10.

Residents reported that the couple was allegedly caught in the flames when they decided to go back for a family member, their grandson Gerick, who is said to be a special child.

“That’s the report we got from neighbors — that the couple had already actually gone out of the house on fire but they came back in to save the grandson,” said Montajes in Cebuano.

Montajes added that firefighters struggled dousing the blaze since the houses were made of light materials, which enabled the flames to spread quickly. In fact, some of the structures were ancestral homes.

The initial damage was pegged at about P180,000.

On allegations that the firefighters responded late, Montajes said that there were no truths to such claims as they arrived at the scene promptly.

Second fire

In the afternoon, another fire broke out at Almers compound in Barangay Tabok, still in Mandaue City.

The fire affected several houses in the compound but was put under control in more or less two hours, according to Insp. Kyle Bryan Lauzon, the ground commander.

Based on the tally of the Mandaue City Social Welfare Services Office, the twin fires left about 270 families displaced.

Atty. John Eddu Ibañez, chief of staff of Mayor Jonas Cortes, said that as of yesterday, the city government was still in the process of validating the fire victims.

He assured, though, that the city will help the victims.

“Mag-start na ta sa atong hot meals tomorrow — breakfast, lunch and dinner —  for three days. Nagpa-emergency purchase na ta and BAC (Bids and Awards Committee) will tackle the purchase request tomorrow (today) during its meeting,” Ibañez said.

Within three days, he said, the city government will give starter kits to the fire victims, including cooking utensils, pails, mats, rice, and canned goods.

“Magpa-process na pod ta sa atong financial assistance for victims in areas affected by the fires,” Ibañez added. (FREEMAN)

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