Fire: 4 sleeping kids burned to death in 20-minute inferno

By: Emmariel Ares and Paul Lauro - Multimedia reporter and correspod | November 23,2023 - 03:26 PM

FIRE: 4 kids die in Tisa fire.

Three young siblings and their 11-month-old cousin burned to death after a fire broke out inside their house in Barangay Tisa, Cebu City on early Thursday morning, November 23, 2023. | Contributed photo via Paul Lauro

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Three young siblings and their 11-month-old cousin were believed to be trapped and burned to death when a fire hit their house in Cebu City early Thursday, November 23, 2023.

Residents of Sitio Upper Capaculan, Barangay Tisa, Cebu City were woken up on Thursday morning by a fire that quickly spread almost unnoticed. 

A member of the Cebu City Fire Station who lived near the fire scene noticed the blaze and quickly called their station to verify. After confirming the fire through the closed-circuit television (CCTV), 36 firetrucks were sent to help.

Firefighters raised the fire to the first alarm at around 5:55 a.m. and put it under control at 6:11 a.m. They declared fire out a few minutes later at 6:15 a.m.

Senior Fire Officer (SFO2) Wendell Villanueva, information officer of the Cebu City Fire Station, told reporters that the fire began in the house of a woman named Gemma Cabornay who is a relative of the victims.

READ: Cebu City blaze kills 4 kids, hurts 2 adults, guts 7 houses

After the fire was put out, some individuals approached the parents of the children and told them that their kids were still inside their house. Immediately after, fire officials found the remains of three children on the first floor. 

The casualties were siblings surnamed Bayaton aged 1, 6, and 10, and their 11-month-old cousin whose remains were discovered last. 

The victims were burned beyond recognition when found among the rubble.

According to Villanueva, the children’s parents were busy preparing food in their eatery located a short distance from their house when tragedy struck.  

READ: Family grapples with loss of 4 children in Tisa Fire

The fire official added that the Cabornays and Bayatons lived in the same house and were relatives. The house made mostly of wood, had no rooms with only dividers separating the two families. 

When 30-year-old Pristine Cabornay noticed the fire, she rushed inside hoping to save her 11-month-old baby. 

Villanueva said that the mother was only able to hold the baby briefly before she had to let go due to the unbearable heat. She suffered burns on her hands and arms while her older child, who is 6 years old, managed to escape with minor injuries.

READ: Nearly P4 billion lost in Cebu City high-rise condo building blaze — Cebu City fire marshal

Meanwhile, Villanueva believed that the three sleeping siblings possibly panicked when they noticed that they were already engulfed by flames and failed to make their way out of the burning house.

Their father, who works as a driver returned home to the devastating news that all his three children were dead.

Cabornay and her 6-year-old child suffered first-degree burns from the fire. Also injured was their uncle, Gelou Cabornay, 31, who also rushed in in a bid to save the kids.

The victims were pulled out by emergency personnel and brought to a funeral home. While the injured were rushed to the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC).

The fire damaged P525,000 worth of properties with 5 houses totally burned and 2 houses partially burned. It also affected a total of 10 families or 30 individuals living in the area.

While the fire investigators conduct an investigation to determine what caused the fire, Villanueva relayed that they are looking into all possible angles including arson.

READ: IN THE KNOW: 12 deadliest fires since 2010

“Daghang anggulo gitan-aw atoang mga fire investigators as regards the cause of fire. Kay naay mga estorya nga mao ni naay nagdaob, naay estorya nga sa pagluto mismo, ug uban pa. So mao na nga tanang anggulo, tanang mga eestorya sa atoa nga naa didto, ato nang ihangop aron sa maong paagi, makuha gyud nato ang unsa gyuy hinungdan sa sunog,” he said.

The fire officials will also be verifying reports that the windows in the house had iron grills which could have prevented the kids from escaping. 

According to Villanueva, placing iron grills on windows is not recommended as they can block what could have been easy escape routes. He also highlighted the importance of immediately asking for help from authorities in order for incidents like this to be resolved as quickly as possible.

Villanueva reminded the public that they can always call their hotline number or seek help from the 10 fire substations placed strategically all over Cebu City.

For parents with young children, he advised them to avoid leaving the kids alone as they are vulnerable when tragedies strike.

“Ato gyung hangyuon ang mga matag ginikanan, mga guardian nga kung mahimo gyud, dili gyud nato biyaan atong mga anak, especially gagmay pa gyud kaayo, nga sila ra sa sud sa panimalay. Kay wa man gyud nato mahibaw-i kanus-a moigo ang mga trahedya like sunog or kalit lang nga naay kasikas,” stated Villanueva.

He also recommended that parents teach their children to practice EDIT or Exit Drill At Home in order for them to be aware of what to do in case of fires and other disasters. 

READ: The dangers of fire: Common causes and tips on how to prevent it


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TAGS: Cebu City, fire, Tisa fire

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