CEBU City Hall will allow the fire victims to return to a privately-owned lot in Barangay T. Padilla, but not until the engineering department implements a re-blocking in the area and widens the interior roads there.

Mayor Michael Rama lamented it’s the narrow road that kept the firefighters from reaching the area where the fire started.

Defective fire hoses and limited firefighting equipment aggravated the situation, keeping firefighters from putting out the fire immediately last Monday, he said.

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At least 786 families or 3,346 individuals were left homeless when the fire gutted 430 houses on F. Villa St. in Barangay T. Padilla last Monday afternoon, making it one of the biggest fires in the city in recent years, the chief of the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP) said.

Because of the deficiencies in the Cebu City Fire Department, Rama said he will seek the help of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo in reviewing the funds given to highly urbanized cities, which can be tapped to rehabilitate the City Fire Department’s equipment.

“It was sad to see the houses burning right in front of you with people looking hopeless. When the firemen arrived, ang hose buslot pa, wala pa gyuy tubig (some hoses had holes, and there was limited water)... Our fire brigade capability leaves much to be desired,” the mayor said yesterday.

“Quick response and the non-availability of equipment, that is where the fire department failed,” he continued.

In his news conference, Rama said he has instructed the Cebu City Disaster Coordinating Council (CCDCC) to field the Department of Engineering and Public Works and heavy equipment from the Department of Public Services (DPS) to assist the fire department in times of a general fire alarm.

If the City’s plan to buy a helicopter pushes through, a chopper may even be used to drop chemicals in the fire scene put out the flames, he said.

Even if the lot belongs to the Villa family, Rama said the 500 families that were left homeless will be allowed to return to the site and rebuild their homes there.

“It has always been our policy that a fire should never be a basis to deprive people of shelter. But as much as possible, the road has to be widened first. Dili ta mubabag nila ug mubalik sila basta mao to ang importante. Before they go back, ug hain to atong mabutangan ug dan, atong trabahoon (we will put roads in place where we can),” he assured.

The City will not have to expropriate the lot, he said, but they will request the lot owners to allow City Hall to widen the road.

This is an exercise of their police powers to provide safety and security to the residents in the area, especially when fire trucks, ambulances and emergency response teams need to go in the interior part of Tinago, said the mayor.

Meanwhile, the City’s Department of Social Welfare Services (DSWS) continued to provide meal packs to the estimated 800 families that were left homeless in last Monday’s fire.

DSWS head Catherine Yso said she will also request for funding for the purchase of housing materials as soon as they finish validating the number of fire victims.

The victims are temporarily seeking shelter at the Barangay T. Padilla sports complex, Barangay Tejero sports complex and the second floor of the T. Padilla public market.

Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP) Head Danilo Gabiana said his office has identified the roads to be widened in Tinago, which they will immediately implement with the help of DEPW and DPS.

“Human ana, kinahanglan pabalikon gyud nato ang mga victims. Dili rason ang sunog na ma-evict na sila diha (After that, the victims should be allowed to return. The fire is no reason to evict them),” he added. (LCR)