BFP official: Ponder before suing the elderly couple who started the fire in Oro villages

Aug. 17, 2019

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – A Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) official has asked residents affected by the fire to ponder first before taking any legal action against the elderly couple who were tagged as responsible for the conflagration.

On Saturday (Aug. 17), the fire that started at the St. John neighborhood in Barangay Puntod spread to a neighborhood in Barangay Lapasan. As per estimate of the BFP and the City Social Welfare and Development Office, close to a hundred families were rendered homeless.

Samson Velarde, Senior Fire Officer 3, said the fire originated at the kitchen of Apolinario Diaz, 74, and his wife Leoncia, 68, at about 8:50 AM. It was declared “fire out” at 11:14 AM.

He said Leoncia left the rice she was cooking to attend to another chore when the kitchen caught fire that quickly spread out 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.

Most of the houses at St. John and its surrounding neighborhoods are made of light and highly flammable materials.

Some residents were injured including the Diaz couple, Sherwin Tahuyan, 39, and Richard Capahigal, 26.

“All those injured were rushed to a nearby hospital. They sustained minor burns,” Velarde shared.

The Diazes could be held liable and could be charged with criminal negligence but Velarde said neighbors who lost their homes and properties should consider the couple’s age before suing them. He said the fire “was not an act of sabotage but of negligence.”

Fire was contained

Sean Sulugan, 40, editor-in-chief of tabloid Benta Birada, who rented a boarding house at San Isidro, Lapasan, said he had to evacuate his things upon seeing that the flame has gotten bigger.

“It was a good thing that I have not left the boarding house yet. Thankfully, the fire was contained,” Sulugan said.

It was also fortunate, Velarde said, that the fire was contained before it could reach the nearby fuel depot and the seaport.

“There was a danger that the flame 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. The port authority and the fuel depot management, he added, have 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 could not reach the depot right away giving firefighters more time to douse it. (

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