One of the hottest days of the year turned out to be one of the busiest for MCFRVI as well.
On his supposed last day in the country, Triton Charlie and MCFRVI responded to six out of a total of eight fire incidents that broke out in the metropolis – more than half of them in Manila.
In Manila, a fire of still undetermined origin razed a row of houses and warehouses near the corner of C.M. Recto Avenue and Asuncion Street in Divisoria around 7 p.m.
Residents rushed out of their homes, taking with them whatever belongings they could. Electricity in the area was also cut off as the fire reached Task Force Charlie (seemed like a big send off for the Deputy Chief).
Firefighters also kept close watch on a gas station near the area, but a firewall there afforded it some protection.
Earlier in the day, 80 people lost their homes in a fire that razed at least six houses along Leveriza Street in Manila’s Malate district.
The fire, which started at 3 p.m., reached the third alarm and took firefighters at least an hour to put out.Most of the razed houses were made of light materials.
In Quezon City, fires were reported along Luzon Avenue and at a commercial establishment in the Balintawak area.
The fire along Luzon Avenue reached the fifth alarm, while the fire in Balintawak reached Task Force Alpha.
At about 4 p.m., another fire hit a residential-squatter area in Manila’s Tondo district, reaching the fourth alarm before it was eventually placed under control.
Immediately after, a fire incident was also responded to at a residential-commercial building near the Tutuban Center at the corner of Roman Street and C.M. Recto Avenue in Manila involving the third and fourth floors of the building. It was put out shortly.
Another fire occurred in the Balic-Balic area in Manila, and another at a residential area along Pilapil Street in Pasig City that reached the fifth alarm.
Six-year-old Virginia Rojo seems unaware of all the fanfare and bewildered by fuss around her. Everybody called her a hero. People were particularly amazed when the little Virginia she told the story that “Papa Jesus” woke her up and told her to save her brother when their home was on fire.
The 6-year-old girl has no time to enjoy all the praise and admiration of her being a hero because the little girl is dealing with the constant pain caused by the severe burns on her face.
Virginia became an instant celebrity in their hometown in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental when, at dusk on Sunday, she used her body as a shield to save her 4-month-old baby brother from a fire that destroyed their tiny home and left her with second degree burns on the upper part of her face and on her tiny hands.
Virginia’s mother, Lorna a laundry woman and a single parent since she and her three children were abandoned by her husband in 2009, left Virginia to take care of her 4-month-old brother while her mother and nine-year-old sister were out at work.
Virginia, who was asleep in their wooden shack in Barangay San Jose, Sipalay City, woke up at around 9 p.m. Sunday with their house on fire.
She was asleep beside a makeshift crib where her brother was also fast asleep.
“Jesus told me to wake up and save my baby brother. A curtain of fire fell on my head and I saw the fire eating up our house. I rushed to get my brother. I hugged him so he would not feel the scorching heat,” Lorna recalled her daughter as saying.
On the phone interview with Lorna, she said her young daughter shielded her brother with her body as she dodged burning debris and rushed out of their house.
“It was very hot and I did not notice that I had already caught fire myself,” Virginia told her mother.
Her baby brother whom doctors found to be suffering from second degree malnutrition was unharmed but little Virginia’s hands, face, nose and the area around her eyes were badly burned.
Virginia apparently has been taking care of her baby brother because her mother, Lorna — who is separated from her husband, Marcelo — works as a laundry woman and a house help.
Lorna, 39, said at that about 5 p.m. Sunday she and her daughter Marissa, 9, went to deliver laundry to a neighbor’s house about 400 meters away and to collect the clothes another neighbor would like to give to her children.
“On my way home, I bought gas for cooking and went to the well to get water. It was then that I heard shouts that our house was on fire,” Lorna said.
Lorna said she ran home sobbing and tried to rush into the house to save her two children but neighbors pulled her back and told her they were alive.
She said she never thought they would survive the fire on their own. She said when she found them, the baby boy was unharmed, there was not a scratch on his body, and her daughter was telling her her astounding story.
Lorna said they still did not know what caused the fire.
The Sipalay police and fire services was looking at the possibility that the fire was caused by a lighted cigarette butt careless thrown towards the direction of the house of the Rojos, located close to the roadside.
The house, made of light materials, could have easily caught fire amid the searing heat being experienced across Negros Occidental and the country due to the drought brought on by the El Niño phenomenon.
Lorna said Virginia would have to stay at the Sipalay Infirmary for a while to prevent her wounds from getting infected.
“I don’t know where we will go when we leave this place, we have no home,” Lorna said.
“We need help, we have nothing left,” Lorna said.
At the Sipalay Infirmary, Virginia continued to cradle the boy in her arms despite her own discomfort.
Neighbors came with little contributions of food for the child whom they called a hero.
It is hoped that some people with kind hearts would help the Rojo family.
They need help rebuilding their house.
Gov. Isidro Zayco said on Friday the Provincial Health Office would look into the medical needs of the child and see how it could help.
Make sure all family members know what to do in the event of a fire. Draw a floor plan with at least two ways of escaping every room. Make a drawing for each floor. Dimensions do not need to be correct. Make sure the plan shows important details: stairs, hallways and windows that can be used as fire escape routes.
Test windows and doors—do they open easy enough? Are they wide enough. Or tall enough?
Choose a safe meeting place outside the house.
Practice alerting other members. It is a good idea to keep a bell or whistle and flashlight in each bedroom.