AFTERNOON INFERNO: Fire razes 51 houses in Bolilao, Mandurriao

HOUSES ON FIRE. Houses made of light materials perish in this afternoon fire (March 22, 2019) in Barangay Bolilao, Mandurriao, Iloilo City – one of the biggest fires to hit the metro this Fire Prevention Month. The Bureau of Fire Protection stresses, however, that fire prevention is not one-month effort but a year-round activity. IAN PAUL CORDERO/PN

ILOILO City – Fire struck a neighborhood in Barangay Bolilao, Mandurriao district yesterday afternoon, totally gutting 48 houses and damaging portions of three more. The blaze may have started from an illegal electrical connection, initial investigation showed.

The fire started at around 3:30 p.m. Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) firefighters augmented by volunteer fire brigades placed it under control after over an hour.

A “fire out”, however, was declared at around 6 p.m. after a mopping up operation had been completed.

According the Renato Pedrosa, barangay captain of Bolilao, the fire started at the house shared by the Pangantihon and Santos families.

Fire victims – initially estimated by the City Social Welfare and Development Office at 60 families or 700 individuals – temporarily sought shelter at Bolilao Elementary School.

Some of those displaced were boarders of the gutted houses that operated as boardinghouses.

The Philippine Red Cross and Department of Social Welfare and Development provided meals.

The BFP’s initial estimate of the damage to property reached P500,000. Most of the houses were made of light materials.

According to Mayor Jose Espinosa III, the city government would be releasing P10,000 financial assistance to each family with totally damaged houses, and P7,000 to families with partially damaged houses.

The fire struck Barangay Bolilao just as the BFP was stepping up its fire safety campaign.

The ultimate goal of the yearly Fire Prevention Month observance is to protect the public from fire hazards by educating people and making them take positive steps to secure themselves and their properties, said Chief Inspector Christian Regencia, city fire marshal.

FIRE VICTIMS. Residents of Barangay Bolilao, Mandurriao, Iloilo City rush to save whatever valuables they could as fire guts their houses on March 22, 2019. Fire victims – initially estimated by the City Social Welfare and Development Office at 60 families or 700 individuals – temporarily moved to Bolilao Elementary School. IAN PAUL CORDERO/PN

Just this March 5 or 17 days ago, fire hit Barangay Bolilao’s neighboring village of Bakhaw. A man died. John Vincent Mauricio was trapped in his room.

Twelve houses in Mauricio’ neighborhood were also gutted.

The fire started at Mauricio’s room and may have come from an unattended electrical appliance, initial investigation showed.

Regencia appealed for the public’s cooperation even as he cited some problems his men frequently encounter when responding to fire calls. Among these were:

* narrow roads that slowdown responding fire trucks

* road obstructions such as parked vehicles

* lacks of water supply

Meanwhile, Superintendent Crosbee Gumowang, BFP assistant director for operations, said the ideal number of personnel in a fire station is between 20 to 25. In Western Visayas, however, fire stations have 10 personnel on average.

The region also needs more fire trucks and fire stations, according to Gumowang.

There are around 200 fire trucks in the region but not all municipalities have them, he said.

Ideally, each local government unit must have a fire truck, stressed Gumowang.

Western Visayas have 16 cities and 117 municipalities, with the cities and some towns having more than one fire trucks.

The BFP-6 assistant director for operations, however, stressed that the bureau makes sure this lack of personnel, fire trucks and fire stations does not hamper their operations.

He also said BFP-6 is intensifying its information dissemination that fire prevention is not only a one-month effort.

“We would like to inform the public that fire prevention is a year-round concern,” he stressed./PN


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