FIREFIGHTERS labeled the fire that hit Metro Ayala Department Store as “under control” 39 hours after it broke out Friday night. That doesn’t mean the fire had been put out; it was still burning but no longer posed a danger to neighboring structures when the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) 7 made the announcement. “Fire out” was finally declared at 4:18 p.m. Monday.
Fire damage was estimated at P100 million. That does not include the loss of livelihood for the store’s workers—it will take time before the store could be rebuilt and opened again. One consolation there is that the damage could have been worse and may have included loss of lives had the fire broken out a few hours earlier.
Unfortunately, some people attach something sinister to the reality that the fire hit only after the store was closed, which is unfair. Unfair, too, is the citing of previous fires hitting establishments engaged in similar business. While there have been insinuations made about those fires, nobody has presented proofs and nobody has been prosecuted in relation to the said fires.
That does not mean the recent fire should not be looked into. BFP 7 is even forming a special team to investigate the blaze. BFP 7 assistant director for operations Ronaldo Orbeta said the team will look at all angles, which should be the case. We hope the probe would not be limited to the question on why the fire broke out but also on the lessons firefighters and concerned government officials could mine from it.
For example, the difficulty encountered by firefighters in penetrating the building could provide insights on better structural designs for establishments. Also, what are the equipment the BFP needs to procure to deal with fires in high-rise buildings, considering the growing number of such structures in Metro Cebu?
The lessons may have been learned from an unfortunate incident, but both the BFP and local government units (LGUs) should heed them.