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Probe: Calamba fire an accident

By: Fe Marie D. Dumaboc, Miguel Ernest E. Ermac September 01,2017 - 12:03 AM

Thick smoke engulfs a burning house in Barangay Calamba, Cebu City, as fire quickly spread through the densely populated Sitios Almacen and Alceca. Firemen climbed the rooftops of surrounding houses, connecting water hoses, in search of ways to penetrate the fire scene as fire trucks were stuck in the sitios’ narrow alleys.CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA

An “open flame” from an unattended candle or a kerosene lamp caused Wednesday’s early morning blaze which lasted close to five hours in Sitios Almacen and Alceca, Barangay Calamba, Cebu City.

A day after the fire, which left 286 families homeless, investigators said the probe tended to show that it was an accident.

Earlier, irate fire victims claimed a “drug-crazed” youth had set off the fire after leaving a lighted drug paraphernalia unattended in his room.

“During the conduct of the follow-up investigation, gathered facts are traceable to open flame, might as well, a lighted candle or kerosene lamp,” SFO3 Pier Angelo Abellana, Cebu City fire investigator, told reporters.

Abellana said that based on the statements of witnesses, the fire came from the rented room of 22-year-old Michael Vincent Gingoyon, whom police later investigated for possession of illegal drug paraphernalia.

Not arson

In an interview with reporters, Gingoyon denied starting the fire but admitted to using illegal drugs and working as a “runner” for Calamba’s drug dealers.

He later also told fire investigators that while he used a candle in his room as he no longer had electricity for three months, he did not leave a lighted candle unattended on Wednesday, when the fire struck at around 6 a.m.

Gingoyon told investigators of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) that he had left home early to have breakfast outside the house.

Gingoyon is currently detained at the Punta Princesa Police Station after police found drug paraphernalia inside his wallet when he was brought in by a police officer who rescued him from irate fire victims who tried to maul him.

“Out of fear and guilt, they will never admit (to causing the fire) but we have witnesses, saying that fire really started from his room. But it was not intentional,” said Abellana, adding that there was no proof to allegations that Gingoyon had a pot session in his room prior to the fire.

“Way nadungog nga commotion didto before the fire incident occurred, mismo si Eleazar Piloton, iyang pagtan-aw sa character ni Michael Gingoyon is buotan, way kontra,” Abellana said.

(No commotion was heard before the fire incident occurred. Even Eleazar Piloton could attest to the character of Michael Gingoyon as good. He does not have enemies.)

Gingoyon was renting a room on the second floor of Piloton’s house, which was among 223 homes gutted by the fire as responders found it difficult to penetrate the area due to its narrow alleys. At least 1,158 victims were left homeless.

Cebu City Fire Department operations chief SFO3 Jimmy Layao is recommending the area for reblocking to make way for an access road.

Rebuilding homes

Fire victims asked for a chance to rebuild their homes at the privately owned land where their houses in Sitios Almacen and Alceca once stood.

Calamba Barangay Captain Ma. Yvonne Feliciano said that she would help negotiate with the lot owners; however, immediate assistance was first needed to address the victims’ daily needs.

“We already provided medical assistance to the fire victims. We also gave medicines to the children as some of them had already gotten sick. We have distributed relief goods from DSWD and we’re now packing relief goods that we, the barangay, will give to them,” Feliciano said in Cebuano.

Feliciano said that the P20,000 cash assistance that the victims are expecting to get from the Cebu City government would depend on whether the lot owner agrees to let them stay in his lot. Otherwise, no financial assistance to rebuild their homes would be given, she said.

Feliciano called on the public to help the victims with donations of clothes, food, medicines and building materials.

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TAGS: accident, Calamba, fire, PROBE

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