BLAZE GOBBLES 284 HOUSES: Congested roads hampered response to massive fire

A fire that erupted early Saturday morning gutted 284 houses at Barangays San Juan and West Habog-Habog in Molo, Iloilo City. (Contributed photos)

By Jennifer P. Rendon

Close to 300 houses were razed in an early morning fire that struck Molo, Iloilo City on Jan 28, 2023.

Chief Inspector Vencie Jojo Aldeguer, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)-Iloilo City marshal, said the 284 affected houses were in Barangays West Habog-Habog (197) and San Juan (87).

All residential structures were gutted by fire.

Aldeguer said the cause of fire is still to be determined but “it’s electrical in nature.”

The fire was first reported at 4:37 a.m. and was quelled around 6:16 a.m.

Aldeguer confirmed that the conflagration originated from the house of 23-year-old John Robert Bantario at Sitio Chinatown, West Habog-Habog.

Bantorio said he was having coffee outside their house before the fire erupted. He was alone since his family is temporarily staying in Negros Occidental.

Bantorio told investigators that a dangling wire from the utility post connected to his house appeared to be sparking.

He later heard sporadic crackling sounds emanating from his house.

Aldeguer said firefighters responded three minutes after the fire call was reported but they had difficulty reaching the fire scene due to narrow and congested roads.

The main contributor to the congestion was vehicles parked on the road.

“We just had a hard time penetrating the area because of narrow roads,” he said.

Aldeguer also cited the strong winds for the quick spread of the fire even if firefighters were able to put it under control in less than two hours.

Four persons were injured during the incident.

Flory dela Cruz, 19, sustained a puncture wound on her right leg while Joylyn Untaran, 22, sprained her right ankle.

On the other hand, Noli Francisco, 44, suffered multiple abrasions while Juvy Idanio, 37, had a laceration on her right leg.

Damage to property was pegged at P4.748 million.

Records from the Iloilo City Social Welfare and Development Office as of 6 p.m. Saturday indicated that 204 houses were destroyed while 3 were partially damaged in West Habog-Habog.

The number of affected families numbered 207 composed of 811 persons.

In San Juan, CSWDO data indicated 72 destroyed and 13 partially damaged houses and six sharers. The fire affected 91 families composed of 314 individuals.

In a Facebook post, Rep. Julienne Baronda said they are processing the financial assistance of P15,000 to each owner of destroyed houses and P10,000 for partially damaged structures.