THE Bureau of Fire Protection in Central Visayas reported an increase in fire incidents by 57 cases, up 12 percent, in 2009 compared to 2008.

In 2009, a total of 533 fires were reported in the region. The majority (418) was accidental while 16 incidents were due to arson. Investigators couldn’t determine the cause of the other 99.

In 2008, there were 476 fires. Of this number, 357 were accidental; 17 were due to arson; and 102 of unknown causes.

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Cebu topped the list of provinces with the most number of fires in both years.

Of the 533 incidents in 2009, 361 took place in Cebu. Negros Oriental came in next with 92, followed by Bohol with 69 cases and Siquijor with 11.

More than P145 million in properties were destroyed by the fires last year.

Meanwhile, a mid-noon fire razed 13 houses yesterday in Barangay Lawaan 3, Talisay City, damaging some P180,000 worth of property.

Talisay City Fire Chief Felipe Canillas said that sparks from a dangling electrical wire over the roof of the house owned by couple George and Amelita Flores triggered the blaze at 11:55 a.m.

Firemen controlled the fire five minutes later, but the flames already spread in the neighborhood, eating up more houses mostly made of light materials.

Canilla said nine houses were totally destroyed while four others were partially burned.

The dangling wire constantly swung and rubbed the heated galvanized iron roof of the Flores’ house, causing a spark, he said.

Canilla said the fire broke out while George was driving his tricyc1e, the family’s main source of livelihood. His wife was doing laundry.

“All their personal belongings went up in smoke. They have nothing to salvage from the ruins,” he said.

Three city fire trucks responded to the scene upon the emergency call of Lawaan 3 Barangay Captain Delia Ybañez.

A fire truck from Barangay Tabunok and another one from the Filipino-Chinese Fire Brigade also responded.

As of press time, the city social welfare department had begun assisting the families, who were left homeless by the fire that occurred in the observance of the Fire Prevention Month.

According to the BFP report, 287 fires took place in Cebu in 2008, followed by 122 in Negros Oriental, 62 in Bohol and five in Siquijor.

Property loss reached P80.7 million.

In the last two years, 36 persons lost their lives to fires—21 in 2009 and 15 in 2008.

Electrical misuse was blamed for 183 fires in 2009 and the 175 fires in 2008.

Unattended cooking or open flame ranked as the second most common cause, with 127 fires in 2009 and 103 fires in 2008.

Although there was an increase in the number of fires in 2009, cases with unknown causes were higher in 2008, which stood at 132. This fell by 10 incidents last year. (JTG/GC)