Burned:14 houses in Mandaue city, 4.8 hectares in Buhisan forest

Posted on April 18, 2012

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A mid-afternoon fire destroyed 14 houses in an interior neighborhood of barangay Tipolo, Mandaue City yesterday.

No one was injured.

Minutes after the fire in sitio Basubas was tapped at 3:33 p.m., a grass fire sent firefighters rushing to a field a kilometer away at the Mandaue City Sports and Cultural Complex.

Urban and upland fires have been reported in soaring temperatures of summer.

In the Buhisan watershed of Cebu City, a bush fire was declared under control after damaging 4. 8 hectares, according to the Philippine Business for Social Progress which maintains a reforestation site.

The fire was reported by a PBSP forester who was passing by the area last Friday. The forester raised the possibility that illegal tree cutters had started the fire to justify cutting down dead trees for firewood and charcoal.

Damaged seedlings of native trees have to be replanted and a two-meter wide “fireline” to be set up by clearing boundaries of debris, said the PBSP in a report.

The fire was put under control “after two hours” said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which said it did not know if the fire was accidental or the work of an arsonist.

“Grassland/ bush fires in the Buhisan Watershed are a frequent occurrence especially in summer time,” said the report of DENR Protected Area Superintendent Ariel Rica.

He said they used “fire swatters like wood and banana stalks” to put out the flames. The DENR gave a smaller damage estimate of .8 hectares of the undershrubs of an old Teak tree plantation.

The Buhisan watershed is co-managed by the Metro Cebu Water District and DENR.

While the bush fire “won’t affect water supply”, Roel Paneblo, manager of the MCWD environment division, said the area must be “vegetated or reforested immediately” because the siltation level of the Buhisan Dam would increase with the soil erosion.

The PBSP report, using satellite-based Global Positioning System images, pinpointed the area to 4.8 hectares.

“Of these, 3 hectares were planted in 2008. The 1.8 hectare reforestation site was planted in 2011.”

More than 3,000 forest trees and shrubs were damaged in the “bush fire” but 991 survived ,including native species of narra, malapaya, lumbang and salingkuwan.

In the Mandaue fire, small alleys in sitio Basubas allowed only a one-way access for small vehicles.

“We just connected hoses until it reached the area,” said SFO1 Nilo Cosido, Mandaue fire investigator said.

The fire started in the house of Rosemarie Miñoza and spread to other houses of light materials, concrete and wood.

The lone patient of the “Paanakan sa Mandaue” a three-bed maternity house nearby was discharged in the morning so no one was around when the fire broke out.

A firewall prevented flames from reaching them, but part of an extension building was affected, said the owner Liza Basubas Prudenciado.

A 14-year-old girl was asleep when the fire broke. She was frantically trying to get back into their burning house when a neighbor John Arnel Toñacao grabbed her and took her to safety.

The girl’s mother recalled a fire in the sitio in 2001, and said bystanders who use shabu in the neighborhood may have accidentally caused the fire.

Marvin Sevillino, a resident, was at Carbon market. He wasn’t able to save any of his house appliances while his wife was away in San Fernando town, south Cebu.

Mandaue Mayor Jonas Cortes rushed to the scene and ordered social workers to assist fire victims and provide emergency meals. A rapid census will be made.

“They will receive assistance from the city for sure but we are still assessing them first,” said the mayor. /Norman V. Mendoza and Jessa Chrisna Marie Agua, Correspondents

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