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Christmas fire in Isabela kills 5

/ 07:21 PM December 25, 2011

ALICIA, Isabela—It was a tragic Christmas for a family here on Sunday when fire gutted their house and killed five family members, including two children.

Members of the family of Salvador Blanza Sr., a businessman, had just ended their Christmas Eve get-together at midnight and were fast asleep when faulty house wiring short-circuited the Christmas tree lights and ignited a fire at 2 a.m., killing two grandsons, Mark Jendel, 5, and Daniel Salvador, 7, investigators from the Bureau of Fire Protection here said.

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Also killed were Blanza’s wife, Teresita, 49, their daughter, Jennifer, 26, and Ariel Gulan, a house help.

Blanza was injured when he tried to rescue his family, and another grandson, Demi Samuel, 5, twin brother of Mark Jendel. His brother-in-law, Renato Palo, 50, from San Guillermo town, was also hurt, along with his wife, Jengie, 38, and their daughter, Regielyn, 16.

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Firefighters found some of the victims together in a tight embrace.

Witnesses said Teresita had left the house and then ran back to save her grandchildren.

“I heard them shout for help and I even saw Teresita waving her hand [from a window] but I was helpless at that time. I called up the fire department, [but firetrucks] arrived 45 minutes later,” said Arsenio Butac, a neighbor. He said the fire had surged high, preventing him from entering the house.

Blanza also tried to penetrate the blaze but failed to rescue his family. He drove out two vehicles and three motorcycles before the fire engulfed the house, according to witnesses.

Blanza was treated for third degree burns at the De Vera Hospital while his grandson and his brother-in-law were treated for burns at the Paguila Hospital.

“This is so sad. They were religious and kind. They prepared 100 packages to be raffled and given away this Christmas but the items were also burned,” said Blesilda, sister of Blanza.

Alicia Mayor Cecilia Claire Reyes has been overseeing treatment of the victims. She said they could be taken to the Jose Reyes Medical Center in Manila which has a burn center.

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In Cebu City, the fire that gutted the Gaisano Capital-South in downtown Cebu City was finally put out at 1 a.m. on

Dec. 25, after two days of fire-fighting operations.

Senior Supt. Aderson Comar, Cebu City fire marshal, said they were still conducting “mapping out” operations to cool down the eight-story building to make sure that there would be no resurgence.

He explained that it took firefighters two days to put out the fire on Gaisano Capital-South because they had difficulty penetrating the building at the corner of Leon Kilat and Colon streets, Cebu City.

“The area was too big. There was little ventilation because the windows were so small,” he told Inquirer on Sunday.

Since the windows were too small, the smoke and the heat were trapped inside the building.

Comar said the firefighters also didn’t have enough equipment to combat the fire.

For one, he said they had no gas mask. They only had less than 10 breathing apparatus. Each breathing apparatus was good for 45 minutes of fire-fighting operations. Each oxygen tank takes 20 to 25 minutes to fill before it can be used again.

Comar said they had yet to determine the cause of fire that broke out on the receiving area of the merchandise on the ground floor at 12:42 a.m. on Dec. 23.

“(The cause of fire) is still subject to investigation,” he added.

Gaisano Capital-South was one of the 17 shopping malls and department stores of the Gaisano Capital Group in the Visayas and Mindanao. With a report from  Connie E. Fernandez, Inquirer Visayas

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