By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
A BUREAU of Fire Protection (BFP) officer said the fire that destroyed houses in a neighborhood in Puntod and Lapasan on Saturday was a result of negligence.
Senior Fire Officer 3 Samson Velarde said the fire originated at the kitchen of Apolinario Diaz, 74, and his wife Leoncia, 68, at about 8:50 am. The BFP declared a “fire out” at 11:14 a.m.
He said Leoncia left the rice she was cooking to attend to another chore when the whole kitchen caught fire that quickly spread to their makeshift house.
“Leoncia called her husband and tried to put out the fire but they could no longer extinguish it. They ran away as their whole house was eaten up by the flame,” Velarde said.
Among those injured were the Diaz couple, Sherwin Tahuyan, 39, and Richard Capahigal, 26.
“All those injured were rushed to a nearby hospital. They sustained minor burns,” he added.
Most of the houses at St. John and its surrounding areas were made of light and highly flammable materials.
While the Diazes may be held liable and could be charged with criminal negligence, Velarde said their neighbors should consider their ages first.
He advised residents against taking legal actions against the elderly couple who were being blamed for a fire that broke out there over the weekend.
The BFP and the City Social Welfare and Development Office said close to a hundred families were rendered homeless as the conflagration also spread to a neighborhood in Barangay Lapasan.
It was fortunate, Velarde said, that the fire was contained before it could reach a nearby fuel depot.
“There was a danger that the flames could spread to the depot, but we sized up the situation immediately, and positioned several fire trucks between the burning houses and the fuel facility,” he said.
Velarde said they initiated “cover exposure” right away by dousing the depot premises with water even before the flame could reach the area.
He said the port authority and the fuel depot management coordinated with the BFP and deployed their own fire trucks to help.
Velarde has recommended to the fuel company to extend its firewall that would exceed the height of its fuel tanks.
That way, he said, any fire from outside the facility would not reach the depot right away giving fire fighters more time to douse it.
Velarde said most of the St. John neighborhood is under dispute, but that the fire was not an act of sabotage but of negligence.