THOUGH they are not concluding anything yet, the Cebu City Fire Station is leaning towards electrical connections as the cause of the fire that killed three people in Banawa Thursday dawn.
Cebu City Fire Marshal Esmael Codilla said they still have to wait for results of examinations on debris samples from the house. They also want to gather witnesses’ accounts.
Lawyer Manuel Barrios Pastrana, 79, his wife Norma, and their helper Joy Lagunero, 46, were trapped and had died in the burning house inside the Calderon Compound at 1 a.m. Thursday.
The couple was found a few meters apart from each other outside their room. while Lagunero was found in the dining room.
Lagunero’s family was expected to arrive from Mabinay, Negros Oriental yesterday to claim her remains.
Also yesterday, Cebu City Councilor Augustus Pe Jr. admitted he lost his cool at the fire scene last Wednesday night and scolded some firefighters in the area.
Pe would not confirm or deny allegations he was drunk when he dropped by the fire scene after a meeting, saying anything he says will be subject to criticism.
He said he got upset when the driver of a fire truck and the firefighters in it insisted on blocking the driveway despite his repeated request to move forward and make way for other fire trucks.
The initial information that investigators gathered was that a flash of orange was seen near the living room before the fire broke out.
Electrical misuse is the most common cause of fires, according to the Bureau of Fire Protection. The house was built in the early 1960s.
Codilla said they first wanted to check all possibilities, before finalizing their report.
For his part, Pe said the firefighters were afraid there was a dead end ahead, but he assured them otherwise, telling them he knows the area because he lives in the same compound.
In a phone interview yesterday, he said he let the incident pass and let the firefighters do their job.
When the fire was under control, he also spotted a firefighter who was about to enter the Pastrana household without a hose and breathing apparatus. Worse, he said, the firefighter wore rubber slippers.
“I asked him what he intended to do and he did not say a word. Dili ka sapoton ana ug ingana imong mga tawo? Mag-unsa man kuno siya sa sulod? (Wouldn’t you get angry if you saw people behaving that way? What was he planning to do inside?) He wouldn’t say, so your guess is as good as mine,” said Pe.
Pe is chairman of the City Council committee on public safety and order and also sits in the City Police Coordinating and Advisory Council.
When asked whether or not he was drunk when he dropped by the fire scene, the councilor did not give a definite answer.
“Dili ko ka-remember if nakainom ko or wala (I can’t remember if I drank anything that night). But our schedule is, we go to a “pulong-pulong” (meeting) every night and very early at six in the morning we do our hand-shaking. If you have a schedule like that, will you drink? Wala koy bawt sa mga allegation nga ingana, (I can’t win against allegations like that), especially now that it’s election season,” he added.
Two civic group volunteers at the fire scene said they saw Pe berating policemen manning the security cordon and shouting at firemen who were trying to put out the flames.
“He is very familiar to us. Besides, he had his name on his T-shirt,” one of the volunteers said. Both asked not to be named.
They reported seeing Pe order a fire truck’s team to position themselves closer to the burning house. He also commanded a fireman who wasn’t wearing his prescribed boots to leave the fire scene.
“The firemen just kept silent. But when the crime scene investigators arrived, one of the fire department officials warned them that Pe was in a foul mood,” the source said. (MEA/LCR/KNR)