Twin fires displace 1,521

By: Doris C. Bongcac, Jose Santino S. Bunachita, Miguel Ermac, Morexette B. Erram, Norman V. Mendoza, Winston Ensomo July 24,2017 - 11:22 PM

Firemen train their hoses to the burning houses in Sitio Back-Matimco, Barangay Subangdaku, Mandaue City. | via Junjie Mendoza

AT least 1,521 individuals from 374 families were displaced by two separate fires that struck residential communities in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue on Monday.

At least two persons were injured.

The first fire alarm was raised at noon in Sitios Mahayahay 1 and 2 in Barangay Calamba, Cebu City.

As of latest count, 195 houses were destroyed by the blaze that was caused by a lighted candle that fell from the altar and into the bed of a certain Princess Rama.

The Cebu City Fire Department received the fire alarm at 12:14 p.m. and placed it under control some two hours later.

Senior Supt. Samuel Tadeo, director of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), said he decided to declare a “general alarm” since the houses, which were made of light materials, were located close to each other.

All firefighting units within and around Cebu City were asked to respond.

“Napakahirap pasukin ng lugar dahil masyadong napakasikip at maliit yong daanan. Hindi makapasok yong mga malalaking fire trucks. (We had a hard time penetrating the place due to the narrow alleys. Fire trucks could not enter the interior portion of the place),” said Tadeo in an interview.

Firefighters had to connect their hoses to form a long hose in order to reach the fire site.

The fire in Calamba was placed under control by firemen at 2:04 p.m. Damage was placed at P1.5 million.

Investigation showed that the fire started when a lighted candle fell down from the altar to the mattress inside Rama’s house.

Senior Fire Officer 2 Alberto Hagdon Jr. said Rama reportedly got the candle from a neighbor who just came from the Simala Shrine in Sibonga, south Cebu.

“She put the candle in a small glass and placed it on her altar shortly before she took a bath,” Hagdon said in Cebuano.

“When she went out of the bathroom, she saw smoke all over the room where she placed the candle,” the fire investigator added.

Hagdon said Rama tried to put out the fire with buckets of water but was already too much to handle.

Out of fear that she might get burned, Rama immediately ran away from her house.

Among those who visited the fire victims were Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña and former mayor Michael Rama.

The former mayor said he went to the place to visit some friends and relatives.

“Wala ko moanhi aron mamolitika. Ang akong tuyo mao ang akong mga kaila dinhing lugara (I did not come here for politicking. I just want to check the condition of my acquaintances here),” he told reporters.

Although they have the same surname, the former mayor said he is not related to Princess Rama, the owner of the house where the fire started.
Osmeña begged off from giving any statement to the media.

Shelter, assistance for evacuees

Fire victims in Calamba were temporarily housed inside the Barangay Hall and sports complex. Meal packs were also distributed to them, said City Hall’s Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) Lea Japson.

“For now, we are conducting socio-economic profile to identify who were really affected by the fire,” she said.

Financial assistance will be handed out to the victims after they are profiled by the city.

Genevieve Alcoseba, operations head of the Cebu City’s Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP), said fire victims in Calamba can rebuild their homes since the lot they occupy is owned by the city government.

“It was a newly acquired property of the city. That is part of our socialized housing program. It’s already a fully paid property so they will be able to go back,” she said

Alcoseba explained that the area was scheduled to be reblocked by the city government since it was already congested. However, the fire occurred while they were still preparing the documents.

Alcoseba said that the city will push through with the reblocking, which will include allocating either 28 or 32 square meters of lot per legitimate house owner in the area.

“With this, we will be able to establish a main road in the area as well as pathways,” she added.

She said DWUP will visit the fire site again today in order to conduct a survey of the entire fire site.

Mandaue fire

About three hours after the fire in Calamba was put out, another blaze devoured at least 150 houses in Barangay Subangdaku, Mandaue City.
Senior Supt. Tadeo said the fire started at the house of a certain Juana Rackan.

Based on their investigation, the fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring.

Damage was estimated at P1.5 million.

Hannah Timulisan, 18, a resident of Sitio Back-Matimco, just boarded a jeepney on the way to a mall to buy several materials for her school project when she saw thick, black smoke billowing from the area where she and the rest of her family lived.

When she came back, she was stopped by fire fighters at a safe distance, enough for her to watch their wooden house get eaten by the flames.

“Nothing was saved from our house. It was burned down to ashes, but I still thank God that all members of our family were safe,” Timulisan said.

Mandaue City Mayor Gabriel Luis Quisumbing, who immediately went to the fire scene yesterday, vowed to extend assistance to the fire victims.

He told reporters that affected residents can rebuild their houses on the same site which is owned by the city.

“As for the moment, we have coordinated with Subangdaku Barangay captain Ernie (Manatad) to house the fire victims temporarily at Subangdaku Elementary School,” Quisumbing said.

The fire in Subangdaku was put out at 6 p.m.

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