FAMILIES living under the Bolton Bridge were already told to voluntarily dismantle their homes and vacate the area for their safety prior to the fire incident on Saturday, January 15, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said.

"Actually, dugay nako nagsulti sa atong City Engineer's Office anang mga tao na nagpuyo sa ilalom sa bridge. Kato pa nang atoang gi-move ‘tong mga tao na naa sa kilid sa bridge kay we were told by Disaster [City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office] na kung matumba ang bridge, padulong didto tanan sa ilaha (we have previously instructed the City Engineer's Office to clear the informal settlers living under the bridge, I made that order when we moved the people living along riverbanks since we were told by the Disaster office that these residents will be at risk when the bridge collapses)," Duterte-Carpio bared this in an interview on 87.5 FM Davao City Disaster Radio on Monday, January 17.

The mayor added the City Government has been firmly calling on families and individuals living along rivers, levees or dikes, and other danger zones to voluntarily dismantle their homes and vacate these areas for their safety, especially during intermittent weather.

She said the city formed the Davao River Patrol and Coastal Road Monitoring Team under the supervision of the Davao City Public Safety and Security Command Center (PSSCC), which is tasked to monitor and clear the city's five major rivers and coastal roads from residential structures.

The city’s major rivers are Davao, Lipadas, Lasang, Matina Pangi, and Talomo.

She said the monitoring team had already mapped out the riverside communities. But she said they are doing surveillance and coordination for each area.

The mayor said the monitoring team is tasked to talk to the dwellers and urge them to voluntarily demolish their structures and relocate to other areas.

If the residents would not abide, she said the city will enforce the demolition.

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) reported around P200,000 worth of damages due to the fire incident near Bolton Bridge along Quimpo Boulevard in Davao City on Saturday morning.

Senior Fire Officer 4 Ramil Gillado said 24 houses were destroyed, while two were damaged.

According to the latest data from the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), 45 families were affected in the fire incident.

Gillado said the fire broke out at 9:39 a.m. It started on the second floor of a residential house on Almond Street, SIR Matina, Phase 1 in Barangay 76-A.

Meanwhile, Duterte-Carpio said the city had already provided assistance, such as food and non-food items, to the affected families.

She added that after screening, the affected families will receive P20,000 financial assistance from the City.

In terms of relocation, the mayor said this would depend upon the result of the interview from the City Housing.

“If they do not qualify for a relocation site, what we usually do is we refer them to an association na nagpalit og yuta (that bought the land) under socialized mortgage housing, and ginapamember nato sila sa (we enroll them as member of the) association,” she said.

Due to the fire incident, the Department of Public Works and Highways-Davao Region (DPWH-Davao) announced on the same day that the Bolton Bridge I and II will be closed to vehicular traffic until further notice. Motorists were advised to take alternate routes.

As of Monday, January 17, the bridges remained closed to motorists after cracks were seen two days following the fire incident.

‘Indefinite closure’

DPWH-Davao spokesperson Dean Ortiz told SunStar Davao in an online message that the agency is currently conducting core testing to test the strength and consistency of the bridges concrete slabs.

“We will come up with recommendations kung unsa na intervention ang buhaton sa opisina aron marepair ug mapadali ang pagre-open sa maong mga tulay sa publiko (on what interventions needed to be done by our office to fasttrack the repair and reopen the bridge to the public),” Ortiz said.

The spokesperson said that as of Sunday, January 16, that DPWH had already recommended the indefinite closure of the southbound bridge due to notable deflections on its structure that was the prolonged exposure to the fire considering the bridge is made out of steel.

“As for the northbound concrete bridge, if it is found out na minor ra ang (that there were only minor) damage, we can recommend for its reopening provided na light vehicles ra ang makaagi (that light vehicles can only pass through),” he said.

The DPWH official also requested all local government units in Davao Region to help them in clearing bridges and other government infrastructure of informal settlers to avoid similar incidents from happening.

A portion of the Bolton Bridge was closed to the riding public in August 2021 for repair purposes.