Editorial: Dealing with fires

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

THE Cebu City Government is finally talking about buying lots as relocation site for families living near the city’s rivers. Relocation is being pushed by Redz (Reduction of Danger Zones) as part of its effort to clear the city’s waterways and reduce the risk of flooding.

But it looks like City Hall has overlooked another problem area, this time purely man-made. We are referring to the vulnerability of many communities in the city to fire, something that, as experience shows, is not the sole concern of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

This point has been magnified the past few days with three fires breaking out in parts of five Cebu City barangays killing a child and displacing hundreds of people. At least two of the fires hit cramped areas that made it difficult for firefighters to contain their spread.

When a single spark can destroy tens of houses and displace hundreds of people, that is a problem. It is even more so when such fires occur many times during a year.

But government solution seems to be limited to looking for ways to prevent the occurrence of fires, which is difficult to do.

Cebu City Fire Marshall Rogelio Bongabong talked about care in installing electrical wiring and checking liquefied petroleum gas tanks for leaks. Mayor Michael Rama talked about dealing with illegal wire tapping.

The closest that City Hall talks about reducing the vulnerability of communities to the occurrence of fires is when its officials push for the reblocking of affected areas, creating access for firefighters to lessen the difficulty in putting out fires especially in cramped areas.

But that is only being pushed after a fire occurs. Meaning that a fire needs to happen first before an area could be prepared for the next conflagration—which is a sort of an absurdity. You don’t prepare for a calamity by letting the calamity happen first.

Experience shows that preventing the occurrence of fires is almost impossible to do.

These even hit us during Fire Prevention Month. Focus should therefore be also on limiting the extent of the destruction once fires break out. Reblocking before a fire occurs is one.

Surely, other ways can be thought of once a paradigm shift in dealing with disastrous fires happens.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 17, 2013.


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