By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Five persons died in a fire that destroyed at least six hectare forest area in Itogon town in Benguet.
The blaze that started at about 1:00 in the afternoon at the Eastern side of Sitio Sal-angan, Barangay Ampucao trapped four Philex Mining Corporation foresters who were responding to put out the fire.
“The victims went to help put out the fire but were trapped when the fire quickly spread due to strong winds,” said lawyer Eduardo Aratas of Philex.
Senior Supt. Sofia Mendoza, regional director of the Bureau of Fire Protection in Cordillera, identified the fatalities as Dante Molina, Noel Dagiyem, Marlon Guiniguin, and Dexter Labasan.
The fifth victim was identified as Leon Mocate, a resident in the area.
Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan earlier confirmed the deaths yesterday afternoon, Feb 20 but was still awaiting for details of the incident when he talked to Nordis.
The fire bureau report said the fire also destroyed a storage facility owned by the company and reached the third alarm. It was declared under control at 6:00 in the evening.
Aratas said funeral services for all victims have been arranged.
The lawyer said the company helped in arranging transport of the remains of the victims. Philex will also extend financial assistance to their families.
In a related update, Fire Marshal Jesus Yango of Itogon told Nordis the fire bureau is still battling a forest blaze as of 2:30 pm today, Feb 21 in Sitio Sta. Fe, also in the same barangay.
“We suspect that the fire yesterday and this ongoing right now might have started in the same area, that is what we will look into once we are able to control or stop the fire,” he said. # nordis.net