Deadly Virac blaze caused by faulty electrical wiring?

THE GRIM TASK of finding the bodies of the four victims in last week’s fire in the capital town began shortly after the last embers were doused by fire officers, with Red Cross personnel on standby with their body bags.
BFP photo

Faulty electrical connections appear to be the cause of the blaze that ripped through a two-storey
concrete building in Concepcion, Virac last Jan. 4, 2022 and killed four members of a family.
The Bureau of Fire Protection, however, has yet to issue its official report on the matter as it is still
awaiting the results of the test being done on a piece of evidence it sent to BFP headquarters in Metro
Virac municipal fire marshal Senior Insp. Marlon Vargas disclosed that the investigators already have a
lead as to the cause of the blaze that resulted in the deaths of Jzar-Jro dela Cruz Estacio, 25, his live-in
partner Rosemarie Villegas Buentiempo, 28, their daughter Jeruzelski Klyne Buentiempo, 7, and son
Kylie Mix Buentiempo, 4.
Rosemarie’s eldest daughter by a previous partner was reportedly in another barangay at the time while
Rosemarie’s brother, Vinson, managed to escape the blaze with burns on his hand, neck and back.
In an interview with the Tribune, Vinson claimed that he went home at midnight, crawled into the bed at
the back of the sewing area at the ground floor and promptly fell asleep.
At 2:30 AM, he said, he was awakened by an explosion and saw flames already near the stairs.
Vinson crawled out of the house using a side door and then doused his body with water before trying to
come back inside in an attempt to rouse the family sleeping upstairs.
He tried to climb the stairs but the flames were already lapping at the wooden part leading to the wooden
flooring of the second floor.
Seconds after he first went out, the fire had already reached the second floor.
“Bagi nang impiyerno su kalayo sa pinto,” he said, recalling the time he opened the door to the shop.
This was apparently the backdraft, that explosive surge of fire that occurs when a window or door is
opened to an enclosed area where a fire has been burning for some time.
He shouted at the Buentiempos and even three stones at their room so they would wake up and come
out, but to no avail.
Vinson said that during this time, he never heard any of the family members scream, only knocking or
thumping sounds that soon ended after a few seconds.
Information gathered by the Tribune showed that the concrete building is owned by one Nancy
Benavidez, who is now in Metro Manila, and was left in the care of Vinson’s mother.

As the caretaker was also looking after another house in Hawan, she allowed Rosemarie’s family as well
as Vinson to stay in the Concepcion building.
Prior to the incident, Vinson slept in one of the five rooms, with walls made of plywood, upstairs while his
sister’s family occupied a room at the ground floor at the back of the “patahian.”
The sewing shop area was half of the building frontage, with two of its walls made of plywood, and, along
with the sewing machines, it stored fabrics or clothing materials.
The building apparently underwent renovation years earlier but the work was not completed as the
electrical wirings had yet to be installed.
The sewing machines sourced power from extension cords tapped to a one or two outlets, which also
provided electricity to all the lights in the buildings as well as appliances, including a refrigerator.
Vinson admitted that the connections had short-circuited several times in the past.
There are reports that aside from the clothing materials, cabinets at the side of the “patahian” also stored
materials for curtains while at the second floor were stored highly-flammable foam beds belonging to the
building owner.
On the other hand, while the windows at the second floor had iron grills, there were two door at the back
corners through which the family could have exited, had they managed to wake up before the fire
consumed the entire floor.
Vinson remembered that two nights before the fire, his brother-in-law had the image of a skull tattooed on
his body while Rosemarie also had a tattoo of a “koi” fish with a cross also done on the night before the
It was also the first time that the family slept upstairs as they used to stay at the room at the back of the
sewing area on the ground floor.
A source from the Virac fire station partially corroborated the survivor’s story, with the couple reportedly
engaging in the tattoo session, along with some intoxicating liquor, with the artist and two other
The BFP is reportedly asking the three men to provide sworn statements on what happened at the time
they were inside the house.

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