Pawid: Fire and conflagration

Lighter moments

MARCH is “Fire Prevention Month”. It is declared in Presidential Proclamation No. 115-A because of the “alarming increase of fire incidents” as the dry summer months start in the country.

Yes, flames of inferno normally visit a number of communities in the country exacting a number of deaths, injury to several others, and millions of pesos in damages to property.

The loss of love ones in conflagration is devastating enough. Injuries caused by fire in any degree could mean permanent disfigurement unless one has the financial means for plastic surgery operation.

Damage to property is something else as fire insurance coverage is uncommon and not a normal practice of protection. It’s a ruinous experience for building owners.

This brings to mind the capabilities of fire fighting units in the country in terms of well-trained personnel and equipment. They need support.

By and large, fire fighting units in the country are poorly-trained and ill-equipped. Protective body apparel is not standard. Fire trucks are outmoded and most are not in tip-top functioning condition. Fire stations are desirably necessary, yet if possible, need not be used.

Nonetheless, the safety of residents and protection of property is primarily the responsibility of home and building owners. It’s not the sole duty of fire marshals.

Parents or elders in their ignorance fail to coach children to the dangers of playing with matches and lighted candles which are the most common causes of conflagration.

Developing the habit of keeping matches in safe places away from the reach of children is one that should be tutored to all. Another is keeping a bucket of water at all times in kitchens and bathrooms that could be used in dousing off fire at its initial stages and emergencies.

With the current problem in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, the government made a wise move to control and minimize the indiscriminate use of firecrackers last Christmas season. In a way, it was an effective information drive on fire prevention.

A cursory travel to past investigations by fire marshals on causes of conflagration normally point to children playing with matches and abandoned or unguarded lighted candles. In larger structures and buildings, “faulty electric wirings” and in some instances “arson” seem to be the causes of fire. In most instances, installation of electric wiring is downgraded to inferior quality and cheap workmanship to save on cost.

Lame excuses or not, these investigations are perfunctory and are terminated upon the conclusion of written reports. Nothing is heard of on who are the people or authorities responsible for the faulty wiring as the cause of the conflagration. Nor further inquiries of arson suspects are made.

Whether or not we agree, fire fighting stations are not free from the clutches of graft and corruption. Ask anyone who has undergone the heinous process of seeking a permit to construct a building. Or ask an owner of a commercial building which undergoes regular fire safety inspections.

The shortcomings or excesses of firemen are long and far reaching. A fabulous feature in Bob Ripley’s “Believe or Not” brings us to ancient history. In 114 -53 B.C. a Roman fire chief by the name of Licinius Crassus accumulated a great fortune equal to some $4 billion today. He personally trained more than 500 men in the basics of fire fighting who later became quite skillful and efficient despite crude and limited equipment.

In the event of fire, he would first make a purchase offer for the endangered assets at a very cheap price. If the offer is denied, the property is left to raze and smolder to the ground.


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