250 houses go up in smoke in Mandaue

AT LEAST 250 houses went up in smoke when a fire broke out in Sitio Paradise, Barangay Looc, Mandaue City on Tuesday evening, Nov. 22, 2022.

Senior Fire Officer 1 Danny Zamora of Mandaue City Fire Station told SunStar Cebu that the fire allegedly started in the room of a two-story house occupied by Reynaldo Devilleres, 58.

Devilleres, who was reportedly drunk at the time of the incident, said during the investigation that he lit a mosquito coil before he went to sleep.

Devilleres suffered second-degree burns on his arm.

A fireman sustained first-degree burns on the shoulder, while two residents, including Alejandro Cerina, also suffered burns.

Devilleres said he hurriedly ran outside after being awakened by the noise of the people outside the house.

Three-hour fire

Zamora said one of the witnesses, 44-year-old Verly Puncol, was the first to notice the fire, which erupted at 11:46 p.m. and was completely extinguished only around 3 a.m. of the following day.

Firemen from the cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu, Talisay, Naga and Danao and the municipalities of Minglanilla, Consolacion, Liloan and Compostela helped put out the fire.

Damage to property was pegged at P1.2 million.

Zamora said Devilleres has been temporarily placed under police custody to protect him from his angry neighbors who claimed that he had intentionally started the fire in Sitio Paradise, a densely populated area.

Return

Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes assured the fire victims Wednesday that they could return and rebuild their houses on the city-owned lot where the fire broke out.

Cortes said they could return to the area provided that they would not build any structure until the City Government gives them the go signal to do so.

“Kay ato na ning bahin-bahinon unya dili mahimo nga mang-invite nasad ta’g laing mga pamilya para mopahimos hinuon,” said the mayor. (Because we are going to subdivide the lot, and it will be prohibited to invite other families to take advantage of the area.)

Cooperate

Cortes said they agreed with the City Council to allow the fire victims to temporarily return to the area while awaiting the housing project of the City Government.

Cortes, however, asked the cooperation of the fire victims for the fast validation as the City Government aims to give them financial assistance within three days.

“Matag katalagman di gyud ni kalikayan nga daghan kaayong badlungon. Bisan dili apil sa sunog, mao pa’y mag-una sa linya mangayo og hinabang,” said Cortes, as he asked them to inform the City Social Welfare Services (CSWS) who are the fire victims.

(During every calamity, there are always many incorrigible people. Even if they are not among the fire victims, they are first in line in seeking assistance.)

The City Council will conduct a special session to discuss the financial assistance for the victims.

601 families

As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 23, a total of 601 families or 2,291 individuals had been affected by the huge fire.

CSWS head Camillo Basaca said 163 families or 430 individuals were temporarily housed at the Looc Gym while about 438 families or 1,861 individuals were at the City Central School.

Cortes noted this as the biggest fire incident this year, adding that they need to revisit the fire safety measures.

He said they will convene with the Disaster Council, including the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), to discuss and assess the cause of the fire incident.

“I know that fires cannot be avoided. Accidents will always be there, always looming. But we should strive to prevent such incidents from affecting such a large area and that many families,” Basaca said in Cebuano.

He said the Office of Vice President Sara Duterte, and senators Bong Go, Win Gatchalian and Koko Pimentel had already coordinated with the city government for the assistance.

Not intentional

Meanwhile, the owner of the house where the massive fire started denied allegations that he had committed arson.

Devilleres, who has been put on hold at the Opao Police Station (Mandaue City Police Station 5), said it was merely accidental.

He said he was asleep when the incident happened and that he may have hit the gas lamp which he forgot to put out before he fell asleep. (He no longer mentioned the mosquito coil.)

Devilleres, who lives alone, said he had been using a gas lamp at night in his house since he has no electricity.

He, however, admitted that he drank an alcoholic beverage before he went home that night.

Devilleres, a Mandaue City Hall employee, said he was not able to call for help as the fire was already huge when he awoke.

He said he had no choice but to jump out of the window.

“Dili to tinuyo. Accidental gyud to, mao nay tinuod. Dugay na baya ko nagpuyo diha. Nganong ako man gyung tuyoon? Kadako nakong priso ana og ako ng buhaton. Aksidente gyud to kay nakainom baya ko. Ako tong napatiran or nasaghiran ba to,” he said, adding that the gas lamp was located away from his feet as far as he could recall.

(It was not intentional. It was really an accident. That’s the truth. I’ve lived there a long time. Why would I do that intentionally? I would go to jail if I did that. It really was an accident because I’d been drinking. I likely kicked it or brushed up against it.)

Devilleres acknowledged that many residents had been affected but insisted that they should not hold a grudge against him since the fire was unintentional.

Devilleres, however, asked for forgiveness from all the fire victims affected by the incident.

Police Major John Libres, chief of the Opao Police Station, said they are holding Devilleres due to allegations of some residents that he intentionally started the fire.

Libres said they are still looking for witnesses to prove that he intentionally did it.

The chief of police said Devilleres asked to let him temporarily stay at the station while he was thinking about where he could move or reside following the incident.

Devilleres claimed that he was afraid of what his fellow fire victims would probably do to him if he stayed in any of the evacuation centers.

Lapu-Lapu to help

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Ahong Chan said the City Government may give cash assistance amounting to P1 million through a special session of the City Council this Friday.

He said this will be sourced from the City Disaster Fund.

Chan said he also gave his one-month salary for the purchase of the basic needs of the fire victims, while Lone District Rep. Ma. Cynthia King-Chan also plans to donate assistance.

The mayor, along with City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Nagiel Bañacia, personally gave the assistance to the Mandaue City Government, along with food packs and start-up kits consisting of canned goods and milk, among others.

The mayor also called on the Oponganons for assistance, whether in kind or financial, that they can course through the City Hall and Hoops Dome drop-off points.

“Let’s help each other. We know that Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu are neighbors and help each other. When Typhoon Odette struck and you were greatly affected, the Mandaue City Government was there to help,” Chan said in Cebuano, adding that they were able to borrow equipment for flooding. (TPT)