VILLAGES where densely populated neighborhoods face a greater risk of fire were told yesterday to re-block, following a fire that killed a baby in Barangay Lorega, Cebu City.
“We cannot have another kid dying because of the difficulty” of addressing emergencies in some areas, said Mayor Michael Rama.
In Lorega, a small bundle that resembled a lump of charcoal, wrapped in a green cloth, was laid on a bed inside the morgue of a funeral home.
Moments before that, the bundle was a sleeping baby boy in a house that was among those gutted in Sitio San Miguel in a fire that started at 6:30 a.m.
At least 45 families or 160 individuals lost their homes in the blaze, said Cebu City’s Department of Social Welfare Services (DSWS). The fire department pegged damage to property at P150,000.
The baby’s father also suffered injuries on his feet, according to SFO2 Lowel Opolentisima.
First to notice the fire was Jessica Dughol, who rented the room beside the one where John Carlo Paragoso, a four-month-old baby, was trapped.
“Nidagan mi, nilayat mi, nangaratol mi unya ang bata diay nahibilin (We rushed out because we got rattled, then we realized the baby was left),” Dughol rasped, her eyes wet with tears.
When she woke up, Dughol recalled, she smelled something strange in the air. She then saw black smoke wafting from the room next to hers.
Her shouts woke up Paragoso’s father Ryan, who immediately left the room. Ryan later said that the fire and smoke made him forget about his sleeping son.
Only when he got out of the house did he realize that the baby was left behind.
“Naalimungawan ko, gisuwayan nakog balik pero di na ko kaagi sa kakusog sa kayo (I tried to go back to save him but it was too late and the fire was raging),” Ryan said.
While he stood outside the house, the second floor collapsed.
Paragoso was the only casualty.
Opolentisima, fire investigator of the Pari-an Fire Substation, said the fire was snuffed out at 8:54 a.m., about two hours after it was put under control.
The fire, he said, must have been caused by electrical overloading or short circuit, because the house owned by the baby’s grandmother Evelyn had at least four coin-operated computers on the first floor.
“Sa second floor nibuto kay kung overloading, didto man sa weak area o kanang wala kaayo gamita ang unang mobuto (The fire started on the second floor because it was rarely used, which is usually the case with electrical overloading),” the fire investigator said.
Cebu City Fire Marshal Rogelio Bongabong Jr. said the fire was raised to a second alarm, which means that all of the city’s fire trucks responded.
Since the fire happened across the area that had been re-blocked after a fire last year, Bongabong said they did not have difficulty in gaining access to the site.
The problem, he said, was that the 10 sat close to one other, making it easier for the fire to spread.
John Carlo and Ryan slept in the same room, while the baby’s mother Joan and two other children, ages 5 and 2, slept downstairs.
After seeing the body of her youngest son, Joan was brought to a relative’s house in Barangay Mabolo.
Mayor Rama said that the City will assist the barangays in re-blocking their communities. A template for re-blocking was put in place after previous fires in some barangays.
“Now the steps have already been taken, the measurement has already been established,” he said.
Rama said that the City had identified the gutted area in Barangay Lorega for widening and re-blocking, to complement the other newly re-blocked sitios of the barangay.
All barangays, he said, should not wait for a fire before they re-block. “It should start now,” he added.
Rama also ordered the DSWS to assist the affected families. As part of its usual practice, City Hall will shoulder the meals of the families for three days.
DSWS Chief Ester Concha said more assistance will be distributed once the count of affected families is verified.
One of the survivors, Jovanna Felizarta, 33, had just finished cooking some viands she was about to sell when she noticed a commotion nearby.
“Nagtuo kong naa’y nagdinunggabay, sunog diay (I thought there was a stabbing incident, but later found it was a fire),” Felizarta said.
As she ran to safety, she left all the food she had cooked.
When she returned, these were all soaked with water from firefighters’ hoses.