By NITZ ARANCON,
and JOEY NACALABAN
THE municipal government of Sugbongcogon in Misamis Oriental lost everything inside its town hall that was razed to the ground by a fire Tuesday night.
Mayor Mildred Mondigo confirmed the loss as a result of the fire that consumed the 50-year-old two-story edifice owned by the fifth class municipality that only has 10 barangays.
Mondigo’s father, former town mayor Gerry Lagbas, quickly blamed the destruction on the failure of the town’s fire fighters to respond allegedly because of a stalled fire truck — Sugbongcogon’s one and only — that hasn’t been repaired.
Lagbas said the fire that broke out at around 8:45 pm Tuesday could have been prevented from causing more damage had it not been for the fire truck with a defective clutch lining. The town acquired the fire truck during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III.
“Kon naka responde lang unta ang among fire truck, masalbar pa unta ang among munisipyo,” said Lagbas.
SFO2 Antonino Salugsugan of the Sugbongcogon Fire Station said, “Maayo nalang naka respond ang neighboring fire stations sama sa Balingoan, Salay, Lagonglong, ug Medina.”
Salugsugan said the town’s only fire truck could not be used due to “mechanical defects” since Sunday.
By the time fire fighters from neighboring towns like Balingasag, Salay, Kinuguotan, Banglingoan, Talisayan and Medina arrived, the fire had already spread so wide and the situation was already uncontrollable, said Lagbas.
“Pag-abot sa mga fire truck naka boylo na pag-ayo ang kalayo, dili na gyud matabang mao nga naugdaw gyud ang entire building sa among munisipyo, apil mga butang,” he said.
Mayor Mondigo expressed disappointment as she pointed out that everything inside the half-a-century-old town hall was destroyed.
Nothing was salvaged. “Lakip among mga computers nahurot sa pagka sunog,” said Mondigo.
The tragedy crippled the operations of the town government that was forced to turn a municipal gym as its temporary seat yesterday.
Mondigo called on the Bureau of Fire Protection to start an investigation even as she lauded fire fighters from other towns for coming and preventing the fire from spreading to houses nearby.
“We ask for a thorough investigation by the fire marshal and the local police,” she said.
Mondigo also asked the town’s fire station to explain the failure of fire fighters to respond when the station was just about 400 meters from the municipal hall.
“Pinaka-duol sila sa among lungsod apan wala sila makatabang. Ang problema sa kadaut sa ilang sakyanan pwede man nato magastuhan, apan wala gyud sila gipaabot nga feedback kalabot niini,” Mondigo said.
SFO2 Salugsugan placed the structural damages at P4 million but Lagbas said the actual damages could shoot up to P20 million or even P30 million.
Lagbas said she asked his daughter to look into the circumstances surrounding the fire and the failure of the town’s fire fighters to respond the way they should have.
He pointed out that what the town’s fire station did was merely to call their counterparts from neighboring towns for help.
Gov. Yevgeny Vincente Emano called on Sugbongcogon officials and townsfolk to keep calm even as he ordered the Provincial Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) to extend the capitol’s assistance to the town while conducting an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Tuesday night’s tragedy.
“Kalma lang” was Emano’s message to the townsfolk.
Emano said PDRRMO would help in the investigation.
He also directed capitol’s social workers to be prepared to send relief goods in case these are needed.
Patrolman Mark Uyan said initial investigation showed that the fire may have originated from the social welfare and development office at the ground floor of the town hall.
Investigators said the cause of the fire remained unknown but Lagbas added that it has been theorized that it may have been due to faulty electrical wirings. He said those tasked to be town hall watchers claimed the fire broke out at the municipal disaster social welfare office.
BFP regional director Senior Supt. Lyndy Lauzon said investigators were still collecting data in an effort to determine the cause of the fire.
“All angles must be considered whether it was intentional, accidental or caused by faulty wirings. We cannot just speculate just this early but there must be an investigation,” Lauzon said.
Lauzon said he instructed the provincial fire marshal to create a task force that would handle the investigation.