Holiday fires leave hundreds homeless

A fire razed 19 houses at Barangay Veterans Village in City Proper, Iloilo City on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Federation Fire)

By John Noel E. Herrera

Hundreds of Ilonggos went homeless following three separate fire incidents that happened in Iloilo City from Dec 24 to 26, 2022.

On Thursday, Dec 24, a fire gutted 26 houses in a coastal neighborhood of Zone 3, Juntado Subdivision, Brgy. Calumpang and the boundary of Brgy. San Juan in Molo district, leaving 37 families or 143 individuals homeless hours before Christmas.

Reports from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)-Iloilo City indicated that the blaze started around 2:15 p.m. with over 10 fire trucks responding to the incident before it was declared “fire out” by 3:08 p.m.

Senior Fire Officer (SFO) 1 Jake Ronald Solis said no one died or was injured inuring the fire which is believed to be electrical in origin. An estimated P350,000 worth of properties went up in smoke.

BFP added that the fire quickly spread as the houses were mostly made of light materials, while the residents were also seen saving their belongings and running toward the coastal area for safety.

One fire victim also said that he could not believe how his house turned into ashes as he was at work when the fire started.

“Kasubo gid nga paskwa sa amon kay mga importante ko nga papeles, namon sang asawa ko kag sang mga bata naubos gid dala sa sunog,” fire victim Robert Prandas said.

“Muni na lang na-abtan ko. Dasig maglapta ang kalayo kay five to 10 minutes (pa lang) kuno, pila na ka balay ang nataban kay grabe ang hangin,” he added.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-6 extended help to the fire victims by distributing food and non-food items.

The Iloilo City Government, through the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) also delivered aid to the victims, such as rice, canned goods, sleeping mats, and mosquito nets.

On Saturday, Dec 25, at around 2:40 a.m., another fire incident broke out in Brgy. Bonifacio, Arevalo, which involved two residential houses made of mixed materials.

A report from Iloilo City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) indicated that the fire was under control at 3:03 a.m. and was declared “fire out” at 3:22 a.m.

There were also no casualties reported, while only two families were affected, with one house destroyed and one partially damaged.

SFO 1 Jake Ronald Solis also said that the fire possibly started from a wall fan due to an electrical short circuit. The fire gobbled an estimated P700,000 worth of properties.

Yesterday, Dec 26, another fire incident at Barangay Veterans Village in City Proper district also razed 19 houses (13 destroyed and 6 partially damaged).

An initial report stated that 71 families or 195 individuals were affected by the fire, which allegedly started from an electrical short circuit.

There were also no reported casualties or injuries as of this writing as the BFP is still investigating the incident.

Meanwhile, BFP-6 director Chief Superintendent Jerry Candido emphasized to the public to follow preventive measures and avoid the use of firecrackers, especially during the New Year’s celebration as it is one of the causes of fire incidents.

“Kung ang aton gani balay made of light materials, especially ang aton atop nipa, bas-on gid naton ina, pati dingding, kay hindi kita kasigurado kung ano matupa dira, especially mga palupok parehas sang pwitis, kay most of the cause of fire (during holiday celebration) pwitis,” Candido said.

BFP-Iloilo City has also declared “heightened alert status” to ensure the safety of the public this holiday season.

BFP-Iloilo City Community Relations Unit chief SFO 1 Jayson Gallego reminded the public to observe safety and still be mindful of their surroundings, especially with the presence of firecrackers.

Gallego emphasized that they also inspect the permits of vendors and kiosks in designated firecracker zones, as well as monitor the areas for other possible violations.

BFP-Iloilo City said that the city is on alert status from Dec 1, 2022 to Jan 5, 2023, while the red alert status is from Dec 23, 2022 to Jan 1, 2023.

“We will also conduct ‘rekorida’ sa aton nga mga barangay all over the city nga nagahatag pahanumdom regarding sa paghalong sa December or the Yuletide season,” Gallego said.