THE Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Manapla, Negros Occidental denied there was a delay in the response to a fire which destroyed 65 blocks and left an estimated damage of P58 million worth of properties inside the town’s public market at Barangay 2 early Friday, February 15.
Fire Officer 1 Rolly Quiatchon, arson investigator, said they received a call for assistance at 3:20 a.m. from an employee of a convenience store.
Some residents claimed that the fire started at 1 a.m. and the firefighters were late to respond for two hours even if the fire station is located at the back of the market.
However, Quiatchon said they were the first responders when the fire broke out at 3 a.m.
The fire was already big when we arrived and the market was padlocked which was even more difficult for us to penetrate the vicinity, he said.
It is impossible for them to respond late because the market is only 70 meters away from the fire station, Quitachon said.
They even used a vault cutter to enter the vicinity of the market.
Based on the initial investigation, the fire started from the ceiling of a food stall due to overheating which also led to an electrical short circuit.
“We were able to control the fire to prevent it from spreading to the residential area near the market, which is made of light materials,” he said.
Quiatchon maintained there was no negligence on the part of the BFP.
“We even have our fire trucks refilled with water because the fire was raised to fourth alarm and the stored water in the tanks was already empty while clearing was ongoing,” he said.
The water tank filled with 1,000 gallons of water can be used for about five minutes when responding to a big fire, he added.
They even thanked the augmentation from the areas of E.B Magalona, Talisay, Silay, Cadiz, and Victorias for their assistance during the incident.
Quiatchon said they also understand that the victims were still in shock and emotional about what happened.
But nobody went to their office to officially complain about their alleged delayed response.
“We know that we did our part so the fire can be put out as soon as possible and no other properties will be affected,” he said.
Initially, 58 blocks were reported by the BFP to have been destroyed but based on the record of the local government unit, seven more blocks were added to the list.
Of the 65 affected stall owners, 19 owners of big stalls were given P20,000 each; 35 received P11,000 each for their medium stalls, and 11 got P2,000 each for their small stalls.
The financial assistance was given by the local government unit to the affected stall owners.
Mayor Lourdes Escalante, in a radio interview, said stall owners who sell dry goods will be temporarily placed around the plaza while a portion of the vegetable area of the bagsakan will be used for the wet market.
She said the barangay officials will convene to pass a resolution declaring the said village under the state of calamity to release the calamity funds for additional assistance.
For her part, Superintendent Pamela Rojane Candido, provincial fire marshal, in a radio interview, said the town’s firefighters had no lapses during the incident.
She said the BFP personnel had performed their duties in the emergency situation.
Escalante also supported the BFP’s explanation, claiming that the firefighters really ensured that the fire will not affect the other portion of the building and nearby houses.
The fire was put out at 5:51 a.m. No casualties were reported.