Pasay fire leaves thousands homeless

A COUPLE'S fight sparked a fire that lasted eight hours and left more than 1,000 families homeless in four barangays in the boundary of the cities of Pasay and Makati Monday night.

According to the Pasay City Bureau of Fire Protection, the fire also razed the Batangas Laguna Tayabas Bus Company (BLTBC) terminal on EDSA (Epifanio delos Santos Avenue), destroying 29 luxury cars and three buses that were all parked in the company garage.

Among the cars destroyed were four Ferrari sports cars, five Mercedes Benz units and a Porsche, all reportedly owned by BLTBC heir and racer Mike Potenciano, said senior fire officer-3 Cesar Domingo of the Pasay City Fire Department.

The fire crossed the city boundary to Makati where 20 shanties and three houses in Barangay Bangkal were destroyed, said Superintendent Arsenio Tabajonda, Makati fire chief.

Makati firemen were able to stop the progress of the fire on A. Bonifacio Street.

Tabajonda said that damages due to the Makati fire, which he placed at around one million pesos, were compounded by irate Pasay residents who threw rocks at the Simpao Motor Shop, where vintage luxury cars are repaired.

He said residents of nearby E. Rodriguez Extension in Pasay were upset because they thought the firemen were "prioritizing" buildings on Bonifacio Street.

"They have to understand that we had to select the property we had to protect, those which could still be saved," Tabajonda said.

He added that the houses on E. Rodriguez Street were already burning "beyond salvation" when the firemen arrived.

Tabajonda said that while firemen were battling the blaze inside the repair shop, the residents began throwing rocks, which damaged the luxury vehicles.

According to Superintendent Bobby Baruelo, Pasay City fire marshal, the fire started at around 7:30 p.m., when Ramonito Alavera threw an oil lamp at his wife while they were fighting inside their house in Barangay 143.

The fire spread to Barangay 144 and Barangay 137, and razed the BLTBC terminal on EDSA.

The BLTBC terminal was already foreclosed by a bank, fire investigators said.

Domingo pegged property damage in the Pasay fire at 15 million pesos.

He added that the figure does not include the cost of the 29 luxury cars and three buses that were destroyed in the BLTB compound.

Firemen from Quezon City, Parañaque, Las Piñas and the Chinese-Filipino Fire Volunteers Brigade were on the scene at around 8 p.m.

Baruelo said they put out the fire at around 3:30 a.m. and continued to clear the area until 4 a.m., when they had to leave to refill the firetrucks with water and let the men eat.

But the fire began again at around 5 a.m. The firemen went back to the scene to find the fire had spread to the BLTB terminal.

Some of the residents complained that the firefighters came too late.

"There were a lot of firefighters, yet they were not able to stop the fire from spreading," said Mark Rigor of Barangay 143.

Rigor said he heard explosions, which he thought were caused by leaking liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanks.

Some of the victims sought shelter under the flyover on EDSA with their belongings.

They were eventually transferred to the BLTB terminal, where the City social welfare department and health department had set up a relief center providing food and medicine.


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