IT WAS New Year’s Eve, and we were with our friends eating Media Noche by the river with the best view of the city’s fireworks.

The hollering of Roger Chiu’s portable radio, which was strapped to his belt, caught my attention. He is the owner of the Graphic store, and is one of the most prolific and prominent businessmen here in Cagayan de Oro. It was kinda hard to miss the updates emanating from his radio as it interspersed with our chatter.

Suddenly, it mentioned that a firecracker had landed on the roof of one of the houses in La Consolacion and fire broke out in the area. It sent a mayday signal seeking assistance to not just put out the fire, but to secure the residents as well. Immediately, Roger stood up and gathered the other volunteers, who were with us at dinner, to respond to the call.

This man is the heart of the Graphic Fire and Rescue Brigade.

Last March was Fire Prevention month, however, more than knowing what to do to prevent fire or respond to fire, we should also recognize and give thanks to the dedicated team that courageously places themselves in heat (literally) to help those in need.

I often wonder to myself, why on earth would someone of Roger’s caliber willingly put his life on the line to answer dangerous calls for help. There must be nothing to gain from it except fatigue, smoke inhalation, and a few burns. Scary!

Moreover, I am sure all of his various companies already keep him on his toes. Where does he find the time and energy to engage in this kind of public service? It is already more than enough that he provides the city with the free use of the Graphic fire trucks and ambulance as a part of his companies’ corporate social responsibility.

Why personally risk it? Clearly, firefighting is not something he or the other volunteers go into for money. They make the time to do it because they want to save lives, and they also want to protect property. They do it to help people and to make a difference. He clearly recalls his defining moment, “The desire started when I was a young boy. A big fire broke out in Divisoria and the city’s only fire truck, well, naguba siya mid-response. We had to wait for the truck from Del Monte, which was coming from Bukidnon. By the time it arrived, the huge fire had engulfed everything. Everyone was crying and ‘di nako na malimtan. Nothing was left!”

Roger mentioned it was very difficult to rely on the government back then because they lacked funds, thereby, being unable to provide the vehicles and equipment. As a result of this deficiency, many personal and even commercial properties were so easily ravaged by flames.

He says, “If no one steps-up to the plate and extend a helping hand, people will continue to lose their homes, or worse their loved ones.”

Until now, he vividly remembers what the private fire truck of DelMonte looked like. The most important thing that caught his attention: its logo emblazoned on the sides. He promised to himself then that one day, he will own a company, and he will see his company doing the very same thing.

Years after making that promise, he was able to do just as he said. A true man of his word!

Graphic Fire and Rescue Brigade was established in year 2005, with the primary purpose of service. To date, they have 4 fire trucks and one ambulance. The latter even provides emergency transport free of charge. There are 20 volunteers who are also employees of Graphic in the day time.

Someone is designated to monitor the City Hall’s communication center and the Fire Department’s line. If they receive an SOS, they all meet in the Graphic Building along Captain Vicente Roa St., which acts a pseudo firehouse that shelters the trucks, ambulance, and equipment. Often, calls come at the crack of dawn. So from working to kill fires, they head straight back to their desk jobs.

Belonging to a fire team means being a part of a second family. The duty to respond to calls, fight fires, and help people on the brink of death are responsibilities that the team undertakes together. They trust each other and have one another’s back. Roger affirms that it is not easy at all! The hoses are heavy, the situation is dangerous, and the setting is hot and intense. Sometimes, things even escalate quickly going from bad to worst. He and the team have to work in harmony, not just to save life and property, but to ensure that all of the team members can go home to their respective families.

Fire service is made up of special people who value humanity. It takes a unique kind of person to do this job—a person who lives to be challenged and a person who lives to help people. Let’s hope that Roger Chiu and his Graphic Brigade will continue to keep the fire of service burning in their hearts. May they never get tired of extending help to the people of Cagayan De Oro City. We salute you all!

For the free use of the Graphic Ambulance for emergency transport service, please call: 0996-999-6999