FOUR died when fire broke out on Don Pedro Rodriguez St., Barangay Capitol Site, Cebu City early yesterday morning.

Homicide and fire investigators found among the rubble the charred remains of Rolando Caberte, 63; his daughter Ma. Charmaine, 35; her son Miguel Paulo, 15; and the family’s helper Alma de la Torre, 25.

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Of the four remains, one was found very near the main door of the apartment. Two to three meters away, two more remains were found just a meter apart from each other. At the basement of the apartment, another burnt corpse was found.

PO2 Leroy Baguio of the Cebu City Police Office homicide section and FO3 Antonio Gonzales said in separate interviews that the bodies were burned beyond recognition and will be autopsied to verify their identities.

Destroyed

The victims’ bodies were brought to Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes.

The fire destroyed the entire block of the 15-door Luisa Apartment of Nicholas Tan and six other nearby structures. Property damage was pegged at P3.25 million.

The Cebu City Fire Department tapped the alarm at 3:37 a.m. and immediately declared it under Task Force Alpha, the alert level before a general alarm.

It took firefighters 44 minutes to control the blaze. Firefighters, however, stayed at the scene of the fire until yesterday afternoon for overhauling.

FO3 Gonzales said water supply and access roads were not a problem during yesterday’s incident.

He said the victims failed to immediately call the 160 hotline of the fire department to report the incident. He said that when they got to the scene of the fire, the blaze had already spread.

Maintenance

The age of the apartment also contributed to the ease in the spread of the fire, which razed the two-story apartment, Gonzales said.

Tan said in a separate interview that the apartment was built in the late 1960s but underwent regular maintenance.

He said that of the 15 units, only two were vacant.

He said Rolando Caberte was one of the first occupants of the apartment.

Gonzales said he is still investigating the cause of the fire.

Initial information gathered by Gonzales indicated that the fire started in Door C, which was occupied by the Cabertes.

Warning

Gonzales said that Virgie Tagle, an occupant of the adjacent Door D, tried waking the Cabertes up by telling them their house was on fire.

Gonzales said Tagle tried kicked her neighbor’s door to wake them up but she was forced to run away because the fire had already spread.

Roger Cañete, the stay-out family driver, said in an ABS-CBN TV Patrol Cebu report that around 2 p.m. last Wednesday, he smelled burning electrical wire.

Cañete said he informed the family’s laundrywoman, Concepcion Bartido, about his observation.

Gonzales said the victims may have suffocated and the thick smoke may have made it difficult for them to find the door.

No other people were hurt in the incident, Gonzales said.

He said yesterday’s incident was the biggest fire that happened in the city this year.

It happened only a few weeks away from March, which is Fire Prevention Month.