SIXTY families were left homeless by a fire that razed at least 15 houses in a crowded neighborhood in Sitio Bajada, Tabunok, Talisay City yesterday afternoon.
Firefighters had to jump from the roof of a roadside storage building and over some high fences around the community just to bring water to the burning houses.
It was the second day in a row that firefighters had to deal with the lack of access to a fire site. A fire razed about 150 houses in three packed communities in Barangay Mambaling, Cebu City last Friday afternoon.
Cebu City Fire Marshal Rogelio Bongabong Jr. has repeatedly suggested that residential areas must have roads wide enough for fire trucks to pass.
In Talisay’s case, the Bureau of Fire Protection received the call for help at 3:33 p.m.
Twenty minutes later, the alarm was raised to Task Force Alpha, meaning fire trucks in the neighboring towns and cities were called to help the Talisay City Fire Station (TCFS).
It would not have been raised to that status had the area been easy to access, said fire investigator Paz Cuyno.
Cuyno said that at least 13 fire trucks from Mandaue City, Cebu City, Minglanilla town and Talisay City arrived.
The fire was put under control at 4:20 p.m., meaning it could no longer spread to other houses in the sitio.
It fizzled out at 5:10 p.m., moments after the rain fell. No one was reported injured.
SFO2 Cuyno pegged the structural damage at P150,000.
Cuyno’s initial investigation showed that the fire probably started in the house owned by Vicente Francisco Elorde Jr.
Elorde said he was in his shop beside the house when he heard an explosion. When he went out of the shop to check, the house was already spewing thick smoke.
As of last night, Cuyno still had to find out where in Elorde’s house the fire started, as there was no witness from inside.
“Possible nga naa’y nahibilin didto nga nakasaksak (It’s possible that something was left plugged there), but we will continue our investigation tomorrow,” Cuyno said.
Talisay City Councilor Danny Caballero, whose shop stands across the neighborhood, was the first to report the incident to firefighters.
“Gihatagan na lang nako’g dugang hagdanan ang mga bombero para makaagi sila sa atop sa akong bodega sa mga softdrinks kay maglisod man gyod sila og paagi sa hose (I lent a ladder to the firefighters so they could go up to my warehouse and point their fire hoses at the area),” Caballero said.
Cuyno lamented that aside from the houses being made up of light materials, the area was also too constricted.
“Ang concern gyod namong mga bombero kay kung pwede ang mga residential area mabuhatan unta og agianan nga masudlan og fire truck (Residential areas must have a road where fire trucks can pass) so that it will be easy for us to put out the fire,” Cuyno told Sun.Star Cebu.
Caballero said that the 60 displaced families will be brought to the Tabunok barangay gym. He said he will also ask the mayor for financial and food assistance for the survivors.
Caballero said he will also check if the lot is owned by the government or a private individual.
In Mambaling, Cebu City, the Barangay Council declared a state of calamity in three sitios where nearly 700 persons lost their homes in a fire last Friday.
Mambaling Barangay Captain Wilfredo Go said that the council met for an emergency session Friday night for the declaration. This will allow them to use their calamity fund to help the fire survivors immediately.
Of the total calamity fund, the barangay can use at least P135,000 to buy rice, canned goods, noodles, blankets and mats for the affected families in Sitios Tugas, Mangga and Delos Reyes.
Records from the City Government’s Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) showed that 95 houses were gutted and 159 families or 698 individuals were displaced by the blaze.
As part of their standard response, DSWS chief Ester Concha said that the City will provide food packs for the survivors for three days.
“The City will shoulder their meals for three days,” she said.
On Mayor Michael Rama’s orders, City Hall will also distribute financial assistance to help the families recover.
Right now, the survivors are temporarily taking shelter in the Mambaling Elementary School, using 16 classrooms.
Go said he requested the principal to allow the families to occupy the classrooms even if it would mean hampering some classes.
Because the principal saw the need for them to occupy the classrooms, Go said, the families were allowed to stay in school for two weeks.
Go will also ask the City Government to reblock the area, so that fire trucks and other emergency vehicles will find it easier to help residents there.
During the fire last Friday, firefighters could not easily reach the fire scene because the roads were too narrow.
“If dili sila i-reblock, delikado kaayo kay dug-ol ra ang mga balay (If this is not reblocked, the situation will remain dangerous because the houses are too close together),” he said.
Go also appealed for any form of help for the fire survivors.