POLICE and Cebu City officials are searching for a man who fired a gun while firefighters risked their lives to put out the flames that hit Barangay Duljo-Fatima late Thursday night.
The fire, which lasted for around seven hours, destroyed the houses of 602 families or 2,722 individuals, according to the initial report. Cebu City Hall’s Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) expects those numbers to rise.
Firefighters needed nearly two hours to get the flames under control and seven hours to put all the embers out.
As of 3 p.m. yesterday, 531 houses were listed as destroyed by the fire in six sitios, namely, Bohol Village, Saduco, Riverside, Continental, Plastikan and Chicago.
Authorities pegged damage to property at P1.5 million.
But they were baffled by one man who fired his gun during the emergency.
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña wants the man arrested.
“We will find him, we will shoot him. I’m not kidding. Di ko modawat niana (I find that unacceptable), we will make good target practice. We will have him arrested,” Osmeña told reporters yesterday.
Vhanrold Monteron, a volunteer firefighter, posted on Facebook a video of a man in a white shirt, shooting upwards at his house.
“Kung naigo pa to taga Ermita or Kamputhaw ato wa gud tawn insurance luoy kaayo. Di man kami nag sunog sa inyong mga balay nanabang rami og pawong sa kayo. Wa gud mi sala ninyo (If the firefighters from Ermita and Kamputhaw had been hit, they wouldn’t even have insurance to pay their bills. We’re not the ones who burned your house, we just helped put the fire out. We haven’t done anything wrong),” part of his post read.
Monteron deleted his post later, explaining that the comments disturbed him, but he saved a copy on his mobile phone.
Senior Supt. Samuel Tadeo, director of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) 7, said the agency will identify the man so they can press charges.
Another Facebook user named Naz FrnkLn also took a video of the alleged gunman and asked him what he was trying to do.
“Para mabuak ra man gud to ang jalousie aron makasulod ang tubig (I just wanted to break the jalousie blades to allow the water inside the house),” the man said on the video, without showing his face.
Cebu City Fire Marshal Rogelio Bongabong advised the volunteers to approach their office so they can take action. He said that what the unidentified gunman did was dangerous to the fire volunteers and other civilians around.
Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Director Joel Doria also directed the Mambaling Police Station to investigate.
The BFP 7 received the alarm at 11:14 p.m. and raised it to Task Force Alpha by 11:46 p.m.
Fire trucks from the cities of Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Talisay, aside from the barangay fire stations, responded to the call for help.
The fire was placed under control at 1:08 a.m. and it was declared out at 6:25 a.m. the next day.
According to SFO1 Edwin Handayan of the Cebu City Fire Station, the fire appeared to have started on the second floor of the house of Cherryl and Marivic Sarmillion.
Firefighters had a hard time penetrating the area because of the small roads and the close-packed houses, which were made of light materials.
Duljo-Fatima Barangay Captain Elmer Abella said that village officials will declare a state of calamity because of the huge damage.
Most of the fire victims evacuated to the gym but some of the families were transferred to 14 classrooms of the San Nicolas Elementary School.
This is the third fire that hit the barangay this year.
The barangay health center also needs additional anti-tetanus shots after more or less 50 residents from Bohol Village jumped into the dirty seawater in their haste to get away from the fire, said a Balitang Bisdak report.
Broken glass shards and sharp objects cut their legs and feet.
“Akong asawa ang nipalit sa anti-tetanus shots. Personal money na siya pero okay raman (It was my wife who bought the tetanus shots. We used our personal money but it’s okay),” Barangay Captain Abella said.
Seven residents suffered injuries while two firefighters identified as FO1 Junard Afable and SFO1 Rafael Basabe also sustained minor burns.
For the fire survivors, it was a shock to find that they would face the Christmas season without a roof over their heads.
One-month-old Daniella was baptized last Thursday night, not with holy water, but with fire. Her grandmother, Angeline Amad, 58, appealed to the public for help.
Affected residents need clothes, building materials, food packs and first aid kits.
Carmencita Abayan, 72, and her husband, Eleuterio, 71 had scratches on their legs after they fell while saving themselves. They both use canes.
“Bisan tulo ka libo lang amo, Mayor, pang Pasko lang kay nasunugan mi (Mayor Osmeña, it’s okay with us if you’ll give us P3,000 for Christmas, now that we’ve lost everything to the fire),” Carmencita said, in tears.
In an interview, the mayor said he wants the financial assistance for the fire survivors to be doubled from P10,000 to P20,000 for each household.
He also assured fire survivors that they will be allowed to go back to the areas where their houses used to stand, after the clearing operation will be completed.
Records from the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP) showed much of the fire scene is public land. Parts have been awarded to the beneficiaries of the Free Patent Law.
Once the area is cleared, DWUP plans to open at least eight access roads, each 6.5 meters wide, to allow firefighters to reach the interior portion in case another fire will occur, said Genevieve Alcoseba, the department’s chief.
Debris from the clearing operation will be dumped in the swamp portion of the village, to allow those who will be relocated there to build their houses on reclaimed land.
She said that the affected residents will be consulted.