WHEN responding to fire alarms in densely-populated areas, the Cebu City Fire Department (CCFD) sometimes dispatches old fire trucks, the oldest manufactured in 1979 yet.
Only five of the 16 fire trucks of the CCFD were acquired between 2010 and 2012. The 11 remaining trucks were acquired between 1979 and 1999, according to records of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) 7.
Older trucks have to be replaced because these delay the firefighters’ operations. These also can’t withstand long hours at the fire scene, according to FO2 Aristotle Descallar, motor vehicle section chief of the BFP 7’s Regional Logistics Division.
“Ang karaan nga fire truck niagi na og mga dautdaot, di ka sustiner og whole night nga operation, naa gyuy tendency nga mo-bog down (Older fire trucks have undergone a lot of repairs, so these can’t operate the whole night putting out a huge fire),” Descallar told Sun.Star Cebu.
The problem, however, is that only the bureau’s national headquarters can decide when the city’s old fire trucks will be replaced, depending on the budget allocated by the National Government.
Of the 16 trucks, only nine can carry water. The rest do not function, so some are used to carry ladders and equipment, according to Cebu City Fire Marshal Rogelio Bongabong Jr.
Considering the city’s population, based on the Philippine Statistics Authority survey in 2010, is at least 866,171 people, Bongabong said, the trucks are not enough.
Part of the problem
The ideal number of fire trucks should be one for every 28,000 citizens. The CCFD, then, needs at least 31 fire trucks.
It was good the number of fire incidents in the city this year, as of yesterday, was 242, compared to last year’s 257.
Bongabong, however, noted that a highly-urbanized city like Cebu needs more fire trucks, especially since the city is home to many informal settlers. Many of the fire alarms the CCFD received take place in their crowded communities, he said.
Because the fire in these neighborhoods usually take the firemen a long time to put out, sometimes overnight, Bongabong said old trucks often become part of the problem.
“Our fire trucks are like old people, who start experiencing different body aches. These trucks would suddenly break down and spew smoke, even during the operation,” Bongabong said in Cebuano.
The CCFD’s oldest fire truck was manufactured in 1979. It is still being used by the Pardo Fire Substation.
The fire trucks in the substations of Mabolo (1985), San Nicolas (1981) and Lahug (1994) won’t start unless the firefighters pump enough air into the trucks’ air brake system, which usually takes a minute or two.
Despite these inconveniences, Descallar said, the fire trucks remain “serviceable,” meaning they can still be used.
The city’s firefighters know the National Government’s priority is to give new trucks to towns without a fire station, so the CCFD is making use of what it currently has, Bongabong said.
This year, the towns of Tuburan, Consolacion and Daanbantayan received new fire trucks.
Descallar said Cebu City is set to get a new one before the elections next year.
The CCFD, as of now, can still manage to control and put out fire incidents with the help of 23 barangays, which have their own fire trucks operated by barangay volunteers. There are also fire volunteers, who bring their own fire trucks to the fire scene.
The Cebu City Government has promised to buy a truck for the CCFD soon, according to Bongabong.
“We can see that if the National Government is left to equip the firefighters, it cannot afford to do so with its budget. It’s a good thing we have our local government units,” he said in Cebuano.
Bongabong, however, said he has been submitting procurement requests for fire trucks and other equipment to the national headquarters, but the decision for approval remains in the latter’s discretion.