AS the days get hotter, people should be more careful in handling candles, matches and other combustible materials to prevent fires, officials of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) 7 warned.
They reminded the public to prioritize fire safety and prevention, especially in households in slum areas where the houses are made of light materials.
The BFP’s reminders came a day after a fire gutted 71 houses in Barangay Basak, Mandaue City, and only a week ahead of the nationwide Fire Prevention Month in March.
BFP 7 Director Esmael Codilla said the increasing number of fires can be attributed to the rising temperature around this time of the year.
“The number of fires is increasing every year and we attribute this to the extreme heat we are experiencing. When it’s very hot, we should expect that materials become very dry and easily become combustible. Just a mere spark can start a big fire, that’s why we should avoid playing with matches or leaving candles or gas burners unattended,” Codilla said.
In 2015, BFP recorded 1,246 fires, 27 percent more than the 977 incidents in 2014. Of the 1,246, 628 occurred in Cebu, 363 in Negros Oriental, 185 in Bohol, 44 in Siquijor and 26 in Lapu-Lapu City.
Fires in 2015 destroyed P99 million worth of properties, and in the previous year, P82 million.
Meanwhile, the Basak Barangay Council declared Sitio Alliance of Two Hearts under a state of calamity after 105 families were displaced by fire.
The Mandaue City Social Welfare and Services (CSWS) and several officials provided ready-to-eat meals and toiletries to the families yesterday.
Tents from the City Government were placed on a basketball court near the fire site where the families can temporarily stay.
A fire broke out in the sitio last Monday morning, after two children were seen setting something on fire near one resident’s house.
Based on the barangay’s record as of 12 p.m. yesterday, there were 71 houses (not 150, as earlier reported) and 105 families affected by the fire.
Barangay Councilor Herminio Escoton, chair of the barangay’s committee on peace and order, said they declared the sitio under a state of calamity during their emergency session last Monday, right after the fire.
To minimize fires this year, Cebu Provincial Fire Marshall Ronaldo Orbeta urged homeowners to consult electricians and have their electrical connections and wirings checked.
Using candles and kerosene lamps at home is acceptable, he said, but these should not be left alone.
Orbeta also discouraged the public from using canisters refilled with liquefied petroleum gas, saying it may not be safe and may cause fire. Last year, the BFP recorded seven fire incidents that were caused by butane.
For their part, the BFP is raising awareness on fire prevention and taking proactive measures, such as thorough inspection of buildings and business establishments.
As of 2015, 97 percent of the 109,000 establishments in the region have been inspected. Most of them were inspected when they applied for business permits, for which a fire safety inspection is required.
Codilla said they had to purge their list of business establishments since only those that are doing business inside buildings need to be inspected.
Of the 80,572 establishments inside buildings, 3,569 were issued notices of violation for their failure to have fire exits and non-compliance with appropriate fire-fighting equipment like extinguishers, sprinklers and smoke detectors.
During the Association of Government Information Officers (AGIO) forum yesterday morning, Codilla, the regional director, also reported that the towns of Cordova, Daanbantayan, Tuburan, Boljoon, Samboan and Ginatilan were recently given brand new fire trucks.
Thirteen towns in Cebu still do not have their own fire trucks. These are Alcantara, Alegria, Badian, Ronda, Asturias, Madridejos, Sta. Fe, Tabogon, Borbon, Catmon, Pilar, Alcoy and Santander.
Also yesterday, Mandaue Councilor Emmarie “Lollipop” Ouano-Dizon visited Sitio Alliance of Two Hearts and distributed pails and other items the families need.
Rep. Gabriel Luis Quisumbing also went to the fire site and gave food packs with rice and canned goods last Monday afternoon.
A group of born-again Christians also gave toiletries to the fire survivors, while the CSWS and the barangay officials gave cooked meals to the families.
In a report by GMA’s Balitang Bisdak, Violeta Cavada, head of the CSWS office, said they will distribute rice and kitchen utensils to the families three days after the fire, so they can cook their own meals.
Robert Taripe, 36, asked government officials to consider the needs of the infants and children, like their milk and clothes.
Taripe has four children. The eldest is 5, while the younger ones are 3 years, 2 years, and four months old. Taripe bought a pack of milk after he borrowed money from a sibling. He makes a living as a jeepney conductor.
He had just completed payments on the house, which the fire destroyed.
“We heard that there will be financial assistance from the government to help us rebuild our house. I hope it’s true,” he said.
Renters will get P5,000 each, while homeowners will receive P10,000 as financial assistance from the Mandaue City Government, said City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Officer Felix Suico Jr.
Suico said that the City Council no longer needs to pass a resolution declaring the sitio under a state of calamity because the budget intended for the financial assistance will be taken from the DRRM funds.
Basak Barangay Captain Felipe Diano said an evacuation site is available at Our Lady of Fatima Parish, but families did not stay there because it is far from the fire site.
Escoton added that the Cortes family, who owns a portion of the lot where the families lived, assured they can rebuild their houses there.