BFP urges Cebu City to reblock fire-prone areas

By Delta Derycka Letigio |February 11,2019 - 10:07 PM

This desolate scene taken on Feb. 6, 2019, shows what is left of Sitio Bato, one of the three sub-villages in Barangay Ermita, Cebu City destroyed by a two-hour fire on Feb. 5, 2019. The blaze razed 273 houses and rendered homeless 629 families or 2578 individuals.

CEBU CITY, Philippines—The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Cebu City is urging the local government unit (LGU) to consider reblocking fire-prone areas in the city and to improve the urban plan in order to minimize the chances of fire.

According to City Fire Marshall, Noel Ababon, 50 percent of the city is considered fire-prone and this poses a great risk of to the LGU since disasters as huge as the Duljo Fatima fire on December 25, 2018, which burned at least 400 houses and displaced 2000 individuals, would cost much from the LGUs calamity fund.

“Prevention is better than cure,” said Ababon.

Ababon told Cebu Daily News Digital that the barangays Kamputhaw, Talamban, Hipodromo, Suba, Cogon Pardo, Capitol Site, Sambag II, Tisa and Ermita are the nine barangays which are most prone to fire.

Read: Fire razes at least 100 houses in 3 sitios in Ermita, Cebu City

Areas with a high population density with establishments made of light materials and with minimal access to the interior areas are danger zones as any fire that starts in the area will easily spread.

Reblocking, the process of making streets in informal settlements accessible, helps a lot as firefighters can reach the fire scene faster. It also puts spaces between houses so fire can’t spread fast.

Ababon said a recent research in fire protection revealed that there is a direct correlation between population and occurrence of fire, which means an increased number of people also increases the chances of  a fire.

Through proper urban planning and zoning, this can significantly impact the fire occurrence down to almost 50 percent.

Fire occurrence

The BFP in Cebu City is currently consolidating the total data for the year 2018 to compare it with 2019 in order to identify the most common causes and areas for fire in the city.

Ababon said that what is apparent is January 2018 had more fires cases with over 20 fires in one month compared to January 2019, wherein only 15 were recorded.

The biggest of January 2019 was the fire in  Barangay Duljo Fatima on January 5, which burned down 18 houses merely ten days after the devastating Christmas 2018 fire.

Read: Duljo-Fatima fire probe continues as displaced victims reach 2,700

From February 1 to February 11 this year alone, 13 fires have already been recorded in Cebu City with four ‘huge’ residential fires damaging at least P4.5 million in total and displacing at least 2000 individuals from February 3 to February 8.

This year’s number of fires for the first 11 days of February almost nears the total of the entire month of February of last year, which was at 15.

Ababon said that the first quarter of the year from January to April always constitutes the most fires because of the strong winds from January to February and the harsh summer heat of March to April.

“Kini gyod panahona mao gyod ni ang tingsunog mao na kailangan mangandam ta,” said Ababon.

Causes of fire

In Cebu City, the most common cause of fire is faulty electrical wiring, which constitutes almost 60 percent of fires in a year.

Ababon encouraged households to regularly check the electrical wiring at least once in five years. For households with more appliances, a yearly check is more advisable.

He said that more fires have occurred with more people buying gadgets and mobile phones and using substandard batteries or chargers.

Aside from faulty wiring, recycled butane canisters have been rampant among the marginalized sector, and Ababon said that this poses a new kind of danger.

He said that butane in itself is safe, but recycled butane canisters filled with gasoline are bordering ‘deadly’ danger.

LOOK: More images from the Ermita fire in Cebu City

“Gasoline has a different chemical component with butane and placing them in butane cannisters will eventually have a negative effect,” said Ababon.

He understands that this is cheaper than buying fresh butane but this poses a risk not only to the household but the entire community.

Ababon hopes that the LGU will implement more regulations on the butane cannisters.

Arson are the least likely cause of fire in Cebu City.

Community preparedness

The BFP will be launching on Thursday, February 14, at Barangay Kaputhaw the OPLAN Handang Pamayanan, which is a set of programs aimed to build a fire-safe community including the Handang Pamayanan Program, Bayanihan Program, Lingap Program, and Kaagapay Program.

This series of activities, which will go on for the entire 2019, will be hopefully encourage the community to be more vigilant for fire.

Read: Cebu City fires worry dads, call for fire drills, reblocking, implementing butane canister refilling ban

“The problem is not the establishments which are obliged to conduct a fire drill annually. The problem lies in the community because people are too lenient at home,” said Ababon.

Ababon said the OPLAN Handang Pamayanan would involve educating the the public on hazard identification, hazard mitigation or elimination, and tactical defense in the case of fire.

By the end of OPLAN Handang Pamayanan, Ababon hopes to see a zero-fire Cebu City.

“That’s our goal, nga wala na gyoy sunog ang Cebu City kay andam na ang mga tawo,” said Ababon. /bmjo

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