A five-hour fire that broke out early yesterday morning at the Java Pension House at Gonzaga-Locsin streets in Bacolod City, trapped and killed six persons, and injured four others.
The five fatalities were identified as Christopher Java, 33, the owner of the pension house, his mother Magdalena, 73, his 12-year-old son Christian Miguel, nanny Ronalyn Dacalio, 43, and Arnold Felomino, 58, who was assigned at the front desk, Bacolod Fire Marshal, Chief Insp. Publio Ploteña. said.
The charred body of a male casualty, who was in his 50’s, was found on the roof of the building and could not immediately be identified, he added.
Ploteña said most of the dead were trapped in the building and died from suffocation.
The Javas and Dacalio were found in Room 205 on the second floor of the pension house, while Felomino was found lying in the hallway of the same floor.
Ploteña said that they did not have the total number of guests who were at the pension house when the fire broke out because they could not find the person in charge of the front desk, who was later identified as one of the casualties.
Authorities, meanwhile, identified those injured as Paul Codognato, 75, who is an Australian national, Rey Bayona, Janine Pepito and Romeo Omnus.
Codognato, fainted from the smoke and was rescued by firefighters from his room. His live-in partner who was not in the building when the fire broke out said she informed the firefighters that he was inside.
He has heart disease and is on a pacemaker, and was not doing too well at the hospital, she said.
Ploteña said the Australian was in the intensive care unit.
The fire that started at about 4:37 a.m. destroyed most parts of the pension house and the adjacent State Motor Parts Co. Inc., Pauleaster Upholstery and Supplies, Kusina, Jimmy’s Gym, Dizon Dental Clinic, Arca Review Center, and Zoomi Bags and Plates.
Foodman, that occupies the site formerly occupied by Banco de Oro and Bacolod La Filipina Trading Corp., was spared due to its double firewall.
CAUSE OF FIRE
The cause of fire is still under investigations, but initialfindings is that it started at the ground floor of the building, Ploteña said.
He said they noted several burned motorcycles at the ground floor that served as a parking space, but they could still not conclude whether they were intentionally set on fire as they are still gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses.
Footage from closed-circuit television cameras nearby may have captured the alleged burning of the motorcycles, Ploteña said.
There were pipes in the building but the BFP has yet to determine if there was a sprinkler system, Ploteña said, adding that the building also had a ladder-type fire exit.
Most of the survivors escaped the blaze through windows and the roof of the building on ladders of firefighters.
Some of the survivors said they woke up when they heard the sirens of the firetrucks, Ploteña said.
The fire destroyed about P8 million worth of properties and was put out at 9:15 a.m. yesterday.
Katsumi Suzuki, 67, a Japanese national and one of the fire survivors, said he escaped through the window of the pension house at the fourth floor and jumped to the next building like Spiderman.
After he got out of the burning building, Suzuki, despite having bruises on his feet, stayed at the fire scene, waiting for the authorities to clear the area since he said he had left his P200,000 in the vault in his room at the pension house.
Suzuki said he was a tourist who has been on vacation in Bacolod for a month.
His friend Nickel Pesalbo, 36, who was holding a religious pamphlet of Mother Mary, said that they wet the curtain and used it to cover themselves while fire fighters helped her and six other guests escape from the burning building through the window.
Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia, Vice Mayor El Cid Familiarian and Councilor Cindy Rojas, who were at the fire scene, also helped assist the victims of the fire.
Leonardia said that he is saddened by the incident and is condoling with the bereaved families of the fire victims.
“We are not only talking about properties here, but most especially the lives of people. It is a reminder to us that the most precious thing in the world is life,” Leonardia said.*
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