Unattended candle, arson seen as possible causes of dawn fire in Brgy Labangon
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Monday dawn fire that burned at least 80 homes in Barangay Labangon was traced to have started at the already “abandoned residence” that is said to be owned by a Cebu City policeman who is now on AWOL.
Senior Fire Officer 1 (SFO1) Novo Erana of the Cebu City Fire Office said they are now looking into reports that the fire was caused by an unattended candle.
Erana said they do not also discount the possibility of arson.
The fire that broke shortly after 2 a.m. burned at least 80 homes located in Sitio Labsalex in Salvador Extension and left around 300 individuals homeless.
At least four residents were also reported to have sustained minor abrasions during the incident.
Quoting the outcome of their initial investigation, Erana said the fire started at a house owned by a certain Richard Tagadi-ad, whom relatives said was a policeman who used to be assigned at the Labangon Police Station but is now on AWOL status.
Police Major Janelito Marquez, chief of the Labangon Police Station, said Tagadi-ad is not on their rooster of police personnel and he is yet to verify if he is indeed a member of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Erana said Tagadi-ad’s residence is without a source of electricity.
Neighbors and relatives told fire investigators that Tagadi-ad would light a candle every time that he would visit the place, which he normally does at night.
There have also been instances that they would call his attention because he would visit his place to use illegal drugs.
On Monday dawn, neighbors saw fire burn Tagadi-ad’s place before it spread to their homes.
And since Sitio Labsalex is located in the interior of Barangay Labangon, fire fighters were unable to immediately penetrate the residential area.
“There was a narrow pathway towards the interior portion. What our firefighters did was they climbed on the roofs of the neighboring houses and connected their hoses,” Erana said.
Conchita Reyes, Tagadi-ad’s aunt, told CDN Digital that her nephew was in the police service for 20 years before he went AWOL. She claimed that his last assignment was at the Labangon Police Station but she failed to specify the year of his assignment.
“Taudtaud na, mag 20 years na unta [nga police] …Awol na siya. Nahug na siya nga nabiktima sa druga, mugamit gyud na siya. Naa gyud time nga murag ma high sya, murag wa nas pahimuot,”
“He has been in service for 20 years but he went on AWOL. He uses drugs. There have been instances that he is no longer in his right mind because of illegal drugs,” Reyes said.
Reyes claimed that before the dawn fire started to spread, one of their neighbors saw Tagadi-ad smoking a cigarette close to his already burning home “as if nothing happened.”
Marquez said they now have custody of Tagadi-ad, who was turned over to the police by a village watchman.
They will continue to take custody of the suspected arsonist pending investigation of the dawn fire in Sitio Labsalex and to protect him from angry neighbors.
Tagadi-ad has consistently belied accusations against him when he was asked about the fire incident.
Erana said they will file a complaint for arson against Tagadi-ad if their ongoing investigation would show that he caused the fire that left around 300 Sitio Lasalex residents homeless. / dcb
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