80 houses ruined in hillside sitio; electrical lapses suspected

Posted on December 2, 2012

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Hundreds of residents of an urban poor resettlement site in barangay Tisa, Cebu City lost their homes in a fire that destroyed around 80 houses yesterday afternoon.

No one was reported killed or injured in the hour-long blaze that threatened to engulf the remote hillside community.

An electrical short circuit is being eyed as the cause of the fire.

Witnesses said firefighters struggled with the water supply as fire trucks that arrived on the scene first could not easily pull out and make way for other trucks that followed with fresh supply. The area, which is about a kilometer away from the main road, only has one narrow access road .

Cebu Daily News photographer Junjie Mendoza, who was on the scene, said he saw a group of firefighters getting frustrated when their hoses lost pressure as they were battling the blaze. Residents tried to help put out the fire by forming a bucket relay.

The hilly terrain and remoteness of the area also worked against responding firefighters.

Officials said the fire started in sitio Pagtambayayong in the interior of the barangay. When the fire spread downhill to sitio Magtinabangay near the Metro Cebu Water District filtration station, firefighters scrambled to the other side of the hill to prevent the fire from further spreading.

The gargantuan task prompted Chief Inspector William Tacaldo, the city’s fire marshal, to seek the help of firefighting units from adjacent localities by raising the fire alarm to Task Force Alpha. The fire was declared under control at 2:56 p.m.

Slow response

Eduardo Cabulao, a barangay councilman, said the fire could have been contained sooner had the firefighters responded after he allegedly called them at 1:20 p.m. He said that it took about 40 minutes for the Bureau of Fire Protection to send over their fire crew.

“Ang kalangay maoy naka samot anang sunog (The delay in their response allowed the fire to spread),” Cabulao said.

He said the barangay’s small firetruck tried to supress the fire with the help of residents who took turns filling the tank with water.

Fire marshal Tacaldo told CDN he could not blame the fire victims for thinking that way because they lost their homes.

He, however, clarified that he immediately dispatched fire trucks after they got the alarm at 1:24 p.m.

Tacaldo said it was difficult to maneuver old and dilapidated firetrucks in hilly terrain such as barangay Tisa.

“The area is uphill and difficult to maneuver for our firetrucks which are very old. We can’t just speed up for fear that it may lead to an accident,” he said in Cebuano.

NO IDEA

Maria Lyn Zabanate, 53 was busy hawking apples along Colon Street when she heard sirens and saw firetrucks rushing to the southern part of the city. She had no idea that her house was at risk and that firemen were rushing to her community.

A call from a neighbor made her leave her goods and dash for home.

Luckily, Zabanate’s daughter managed to bring her children to safety before fire engulfed their home. The fruit vendor’s other daughter, Ajane, a grade seven student at Tisa National High School, was in an Internet shop when the fire broke out. She lost her uniforms, books and other school materials in the fire.

Councilman Cabulao said the fire started in the house of Acang Lariosa. But arson investigator Emiliano Daño Jr. said the cause of the fire was traced to the house of Nora Alingasa. An electrical short circuit is being eyed as the cause of the fire.

Barangay captain Teresita Cabulao was set to convene the barangay council last night to declare a state of calamity in sitio Magtinabangay.

Cebu City Michael Rama last night released P10,000 to buy food for the victims while Rep. Tomas Osmeña gave P200 per family.

Councilman Cabulao is appealing to people to donate sleeping mats, blankets and clothes for the victims who were temporarily evacuated to the Tisa National High School gym and the barangay hall. /Edison A. delos Angeles and Chito O. Aragon, Correspondents with a report by Jhunnex Napallacan

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