Beyond the flames: The heroic journey of a volunteer firefighter

CEBU. Volunteer firefighter Ryan Conson.
CEBU. Volunteer firefighter Ryan Conson.Photo by Honey Cotejo

WHAT would you do if you were in a tragic situation? Most people prioritize saving themselves and their loved ones, but Ryan Conson was different.

Conson, a 38-year-old volunteer firefighter from Barangay Looc, fearlessly ran through blazing houses and pavements to put out the fire in Sitio Under the Bridge, located underneath the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge (also known as the first bridge), in Barangay Looc, Mandaue City on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.

He was one of the first responders who rushed to the fire scene, prioritizing the safety of the entire community over their own.

CEBU. Ryan Conson sustained blisters from the fire that hit Sitio Under the Bridge in Barangay Looc, Mandaue City on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.
CEBU. Ryan Conson sustained blisters from the fire that hit Sitio Under the Bridge in Barangay Looc, Mandaue City on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.Photo by Honey Cotejo

Peaceful lunch

On March 14, Conson spoke to the media about his experience during the fire.

He said that while enjoying a peaceful lunch at home Tuesday afternoon, he noticed a black smoke in an area nearby.

He said he was fortunate to have finished his entire lunch.

Conson wasted no time rushing to their fire truck at the barangay hall to find out where the black smoke is coming from.

"Padung mi didtos nasunogan dayon nag set up mi diretso. Mao na dagan kos sulod, nitira ko dayon. Di na gyud namo matabang kay dako na kaayo ang kayo unya kusog na kaayo ang hangin sad. Hapit pa gani among fire truck nasunog," said Conson.

(On the way to the fire-hit area, we set up quickly. I ran inside the fire zone and extracted water from my fire hose towards the blaze. Unfortunately, the fire had already become too large and the wind was too strong. Our fire truck was almost set on fire.)

Despite the danger, Conson and his team bravely attempted to extinguish the fire, but it quickly spiraled out of their control.

A home was lost

As the situation worsened, Conson quickly ran back home and handed his family, especially his child, to his siblings for safety. Afterward, he returned to his firefighting duties.

After a few minutes, Conson faced the worst experience a firefighter could ever go through. While he was busy saving other homes from the flames, he lost his own home.

Conson narrated the heartbreaking moment when he had to battle the fire to prevent it from engulfing his very home of 20 years.

But his composure never faltered in fighting the fire. This time, he was not only saving his community but also neighboring areas from losing their homes, with the fire was getting more aggressive.

Rise of a hero

Conson has been working in a motorboat port located near his residence while he is volunteering as a firefighter.

He said the fire incident that occurred in Sitio Paradise on November 22, 2022, which was close to his neighborhood, inspired him to join the firefighting brigade in his barangay.

The Sitio Paradise fire destroyed approximately 600 homes, displacing 2,737 individuals and making it one of the largest fire incidents in Cebu in 2022.

"I volunteered because I really wanted to help people," said Conson.

He then trained himself on firefighting techniques at the Bureau of Fire Protection Mandaue Office.

Conson works as a volunteer firefighter and receives an honorarium of P3,500 per month. He is on call for two shifts, day or night, and promptly responds to any fire incident, even those outside his barangay when the help of their fire brigade is required.

For him, his small salary does not matter as he finds happiness in saving and helping people from fire incidents.

His most memorable assignment was the fire last Tuesday, March 12.

New journey unfolds

Conson is now one of the 515 families affected by the fire who have found temporary shelter at the Looc Gymnasium.

The Mandaue City Government is currently hosting evacuees at the gymnasium and nearby Cesar Cabahug Elementary School.

Sadly, Conson and his family were unable to save any of their belongings.

His first-degree burn on his left arm, which he did not notice until the fire was successfully extinguished, was the only souvenir of his heroic deed and Sitio Under the Bridge's tragic fate.

While waiting for help from the government and other kind individuals, Conson's patriotic heart remains as he chooses to still be a volunteer firefighter despite his experience.

"This is a new chapter of my life, but I will continue to help other people. I have been a volunteer firefighter for a year now," he said in Cebuano. (HIC)


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