A DAY before the start of Fire Prevention Month, fire destroyed 320 houses in Sitios Bayabas and Ternate in Barangay Ibabao-Estancia, Mandaue City at noon Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.

Some 530 families, or 1,404 individuals, were displaced.

The alarm was received at 11:40, said SFO1 Jade Roble, fire investigator, adding that they raised a second alarm 14 minutes later.

At 12:34 p.m., the alarm was raised to Task Force Alpha, prompting fire units from surrounding areas to respond to the incident.

The blaze was placed under control at 1:08 p.m. before firefighters declared a fire-out at 2:35 p.m.

Roble told SunStar Cebu the fire started on the second floor of Roel Mantos’ house, which had been rented out.

Roble wasn’t able to get Mantos’ side since the latter was not around, adding that the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

“Most of the houses were made of mixed concrete and light materials,” said Roble.

Damage estimates were placed at around P2.4 million.

Personnel of the Mandaue City Social Welfare and Services distributed relief goods and hot meals to survivors.

Mayor Jonas Cortes, who arrived at the scene, was saddened by the incident and said the City would extend financial assistance to survivors.

“Whether private or public, kinahanglan og reblocking kay atong makita nga walay tarong nga access sa fire trucks. Mao nay problema nato (We need to reblock the affected areas because these cannot be accessed by fire trucks, which was the problem during the fire),” Cortes said.

Some residents believed the fire was started by a butane canister that exploded.

“Atong ipasuta no kung naa ba gyuy butane diha pero mao lage (We need to look into this but) we just have to be extra careful,” the mayor said.

Saturday’s fire took place less than 24 hours after fire struck Sitio Buli in Barangay Duljo Fatima, Cebu City on Friday night, Feb. 28.

According to FO2 Emerson Arceo, fire investigator, they received the alarm at 6:29 p.m. and raised a second alarm eight minutes later.

The fire was believed to have started in the house of Julius “Jimboy” Ybañez and his live-in partner Mary Anne.

Witnesses heard the two fighting, with Ybañez allegedly threatening to burn down their house.

“That’s what the neighbors said. They heard the couple having a spat. A few minutes later, they saw flames inside,” Arceo said in Cebuano.

The blaze destroyed 15 structures with damage estimates placed at P100,000.

Their owners were reportedly angry at the couple as they had just rebuilt their homes after these were destroyed by fire over a year ago.

Arceo was able to question Ybañez and Mary Anne and get some details when the two returned to the scene.

He said Ybañez denied the allegation that he and his live-in partner had argued or that he had threatened to burn their house. He said this angered residents, who started to maul Ybañez.

Fire volunteers were able to stop the attack on Ybañez but not before he suffered several bruises, including a cut in the head. They took him to a safe place before they brought him to a hospital for treatment.

Arceo said they couldn’t file a case of arson against Ybañez and put him in jail since none of the survivors was willing to file a complaint against him.

Arceo said they will continue their investigation to determine the cause of the fire. / KFD / BBT / PJB