CEBU CITY -- Nine towns in Cebu province have to depend on neighboring towns and cities whenever a fire breaks out in their areas, because they do not have fire trucks.
As Fire Prevention Month opened yesterday (March 1, 2015), records of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)-Central Visayas Region showed that 39 out of 136 municipalities in the region remain without a fire truck.
Like the nine towns in Cebu, two towns in Siquijor, nine in Negros Oriental and 19 in Bohol Province rely on neighboring communities, some of which also have outdated fire engines. The oldest fire engine in the region was reportedly manufactured in the 1950s.
One for 25,000
Chief Inspector Vonrad Fernando Dobluis, BFP’s Regional Operations Division head, said they also lack safety gear, such as helmets, jackets and gloves.
“Sa tinuod lang, kuwang kaayo ta ug ekipo. Dako pa kaayo ta ug kinahanglan (We lack a lot of equipment),” he told Sun.Star Cebu.
The bureau is in the midst of modernizing, with a P3.4-billion budget last year to acquire firefighting equipment in the entire country, he said.
Based on the assessment the BFP made in December last year, five fire trucks were unserviceable, while four were under repair.
Since the bureau was established, it has acquired 150 fire trucks from the national headquarters and 28 fire trucks from local government units (LGUs).
The standard is one fire truck for every 25,000 people, Dobluis said. The region needs more.
In Lapu-Lapu City, the challenge is different.
While they have enough fire trucks to respond quickly to fires, BFP Chief Oscar Mayol said they lack firefighters.
They have 14 fire trucks, nine of which are owned by the City. They have 69 BFP personnel and 22 job-order workers provided by the City.
Mayol said they only have three personnel for every fire truck, far below the ideal ratio of 14 personnel for every truck.
The Lapu-Lapu City BFP will hold a motorcade today to mark the start of Fire Prevention Month.
Mayol said they are ready to respond to fires, but urged residents to take extra precaution and be fire safety-conscious throughout the year.
The city has five stations that can respond to fires in all 27 barangays, he assured.
Lapu-Lapu City BFP personnel yesterday joined a walk in Cebu City to help raise fire prevention awareness.
Mayol said they have lined up several activities aimed at promoting fire safety awareness this month, including fire drills, evacuation drills and lectures.
They will also heighten inspections and provide training for barangay fire brigade members.
In 2013, the Lapu-Lapu City BFP responded to 40 fires that damaged a total of P3.59 million in properties. Mayol said they recorded 35 fires last year, with total damage pegged at P1.025 million.
Most of the fires occurred in residential areas, Mayol said.
The latest fire truck the BFP-Central Visayas acquired became available this year and was meant for Garcia Hernandez town in Bohol, the report showed.
However, many fire trucks are already older than seven years, which is the recommended life span
In Cebu, the towns that lack fire trucks are Alcantara, Alcoy, Alegria, Asturias, Borbon, Pilar, Samboan, Santa Fe and Tabogon.
“We are encouraging fire marshals to build good rapport with their LGU, who could buy the equipment for them,” Dobluis said.
The BFP, he said, is also grateful for other fire brigades, such as the Cebu Filipino-Chinese Volunteers.
At the start of Fire Prevention Month, when the increasingly hot weather may spark fires, Dobluis urged the public to be more cautious.
Faulty electrical connections, including overloading, remain the most common cause of fires in the region, followed by unattended cooking.
The BFP recorded 977 fires last year, compared with 959 in 2013. At least 832 of them were classified as accidental and 116 are still being investigated. At least 25 were intentional.
Last year, 16 civilians died while 49 suffered injuries during fires. Four firefighters were wounded while working.
Fires, at least based on the affidavits of loss, damaged P82.91 million worth of property in 2014. (Sun.Star Cebu)