Fire razes 2 houses, engulfs another

Posted on Apr 17 2012
By Ferdie de la Torre

A firefighter sprays water onto one of the three houses that was burned yesterday afternoon in San Jose. (Ferdie de la Torre) A fire of still unknown cause razed to the ground yesterday afternoon two houses and engulfed the interior of an adjacent house, all located along Ellegh Avenue in San Jose, Saipan.

No one was reported injured as most residents were either at work or in school when the fire broke out past 1pm, Saipan Tribune learned from witnesses.

A total of five families were affected, including two families that occupy two duplex-type units that sustained water and smoke damage.

Firefighters prevented the blaze from spreading to other houses and to the adjacent Pentecostal Missionary Church of Christ. A portion of the church’s kitchen was burned, witnesses said.

At least three women and a teenage girl were seen crying at the scene as they helplessly watched their houses and belongings reduced to ashes. Three families failed to salvage any of their belongings.

Fire Lt. Kevin Aldan told Saipan Tribune that no one was reported injured in the fire but that they want to make sure all affected families are accounted for. He said they brought the affected families to the American Red Cross, which set up a tent in the vicinity.

He said they were still investigating the cause of the fire.

Aldan said four fire trucks from the Department of Public Safety as well as other support units responded to the scene. Aldan said they sought backup from the Commonwealth Ports Authority, but its tank was down and therefore couldn’t assist them.

Some witnesses said that a DPS fire truck had no water when it arrived. Aldan disputed this, saying all the trucks had water but they did not immediately spray water into the fire because there were live wires on the ground.

Witnesses said the fire started inside a one-story house rented by Rowena Bagasala and her family.

Emma Nicholas, 62, said she was making her grandchildren sleep when their neighbor shouted, “Fire.” When she went out of the house, Nicholas saw fire and smoke coming from the house of their neighbor-Bagasala and her family-so she immediately called 911.

Only Bagasala’s 24-year-old son was at the house, but he was sleeping outside when the fire broke out. A neighbor had to wake him up to inform him of the blaze.

Bagasala’s husband was at work while their two other daughters-6 and 14 years old-were at school at the time.

Bagasala, 46, said it was at about 2:30pm when she received a call from a neighbor that their house was on fire. She said she was working at the time at the house of her employer on Mt. Tapochao. Her employer dropped her off at the scene at 3pm.

Bagasala said their house was already totally burned when she arrived.

As the house was made of concrete and light materials, the blaze quickly spread to the adjacent house occupied by a certain Grace and her husband, who were both at their jobsites.

The two houses are reportedly owned by Diego Rabauliman and his sister.

The fire crawled to a dividing wall of a compound and burned the interior of a one-story house rented by Asuncion Demapan and her family.

Demapan and her husband were at work, while their two children were at school when the fire happened.

“I got only this bag that I carried to the office. Everything was burned,” said the teary-eyed Demapan.

Firefighters and police officers prevented two other families that are renting nearby units from entering the compound as firefighters were still conducting clearing-up operations. The two houses only had smoke and water damage. The building where the three houses are located is owned by Micropac Saipan Inc., witnesses said.

On Thursday, an afternoon fire struck the Islander Club located behind Gold Beach Hotel on Pupulu Drive in Garapan. No one was reported injured in the blaze as the club was closed when the fire of unknown cause broke out.

Bush fires swept a big area and gobbled several banana plants at the former Botanical Garden in Papago last Tuesday and Wednesday.

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