GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/19 July) – Four members of a family and their house helper were killed in a huge fire that gutted down a residential unit in a middle class housing subdivision here before dawn Thursday.
Senior Fire Officer 3 Romeo Pantoja, arson investigator of the Bureau of Fire Protection, identified the victims as Leonora Barace; her children Aldrin, 16, July, 11, and Andrew, 8; and a house helper who was only identified as a certain Judith.
Leonora’s husband, who works as an engineer in Dubai, just left the city recently to resume his work abroad.
Based on their initial investigation, Pantoja said the fire started at past 3 a.m. at a portion of the Barace residence in Lot 15, Block 10, Phase 1 of Gensanville subdivision in Barangay Bula here.
The family’s neighbors reported that they heard a loud explosion before the fire erupted, he said.
Pantoja said they immediately responded to the area after it was reported but they initially failed to enter the residential compound as its steel gate was locked.
He said the movement of local firefighters was also hampered by the high concrete fence surrounding the Barace compound.
“There’s no other passage to the house aside from the gate so our operation was hampered,” he said in a radio interview.
Pantoja said they were able to control the fire around 5 a.m. and found the remains of the victims in separate locations inside the house.
The official said they could not yet determine the exact cause and origin of the fire but local witnesses said they first noticed the fire at the house’s kitchen area.
Pantoja said they were considering several angles as to the cause of the fire, including arson. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)