The haz­ard called fire

Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - by Ben­jie Tal­isic and Doris C. Bong­cac

Members of the Her­nan­dez fam­ily are un­able to sleep at night ev­ery time it rains; as flood wa­ter seeps into a makeshift tent that is now con­sid­ered their home.

The tent is lo­cated close to their burnt house in Si­tio Bel­tran, Barangay Quiot, Cebu City.

Danilo, 61, Anecita, 53, and their four daugh­ters aged 27, 25, 23 and 19 are among at least 300 peo­ple left home­less when a 26-minute fire rav­aged sitios Bel­tran and Up­per Yati in the late af­ter­noon of Fe­bru­ary 19.

“Pait kaayo kay maulanan mi unya ang among gipuy-an tent lang. Maa­pawan og tubig (Life has been very dif­fi­cult for us be­cause we only live in a tent and it would get flooded),” Danilo said.

On sunny days, his fam­ily also had to en­dure the scorch­ing heat, Danilo added.

Danilo ap­peals to Cebu City Mayor To­mas Os­meña to al­low them to al­ready re­build their houses so that life could re­turn to nor­mal.

“Na­hata­gan na mi ug mga hin­a­bang, mga relief goods, pero wala pa ang fi­nan­cial. Unta ma­hata­gan na mi og fi­nan­cial sup­port para maka­palit og ka­hoy para makatukod og payag (We we’re al­ready given relief goods and other help but noth­ing fi­nan­cial. We hope they will give us fi­nan­cial sup- port so that we can build even a hut),” Danilo said.

It was the first time for the Her­nan­dez fam­ily to ex­pe­ri­ence fire in the place where they had lived in for 28 years.

Cebu City fire in­ves­ti­ga­tors have yet to de­ter­mine the cause of the blaze.

The Her­nan­dezes lived right next to a house oc­cu­pied by Car­l­ito Dayanan where the fire re­port­edly started.

Fire-prone ar­eas

In thickly pop­u­lated ar­eas like Cebu City, with a pop­u­la­tion of at least 922,611 res­i­dents based on a 2015 cen­sus, fire in­ci­dents are com­mon.

Cebu City fires re­ported in 2017 re­sulted to the loss of P7.2 mil­lion worth of prop­er­ties; while those in 2016 de­stroyed P15 mil­lion worth of prop­er­ties.

Com­pared to other places in Cen­tral Visayas, Cebu City also topped the num­ber of fires recorded with 236 in­ci­dences in 2016 and 248 in 2017.

Dur­ing the first two months of 2018, the city again had the most num­ber of fires in Cen­tral Visayas, to­tal­ing 32 in­ci­dents, with 17 recorded in Jan­uary and 15 in­ci­dents in Fe­bru­ary. At least three per­sons were re­ported in­jured.

Ma­jor in­ci­dences, which tran­spired in Jan­uary, in­cluded the huge fire in Metro Ayala at the Cebu Busi­ness Park last Jan­uary 5 and an­other that hit sitios Lawis, Ma­har­lika and River­side, Barangay Pasil in Jan­uary 14 which dis­placed an es­ti­mated 400 fam­i­lies.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­ducted by the Bureau of Fire Pro­tec­tion (BFP) showed that the Pasil fire was a re­sult of un­su­per­vised chil­dren play­ing with matches.

Mean­while, the Ayala mall fire re­mains un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

On Fe­bru­ary 1, the blaze in Si­tio Ilang-Ilang, Barangay Sawang Calero, which dis­placed at least 600 fam­i­lies, was the big­gest fire recorded that month.

The in­ci­dent, which re­mains un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, re­sulted to the loss of P2 mil­lion worth of prop­er­ties.

Cebu City Fire Mar­shall Chief Insp. Noel Nel­son Ababon said that most, if not all of the city’s ur­ban barangays are con­sid­ered fire-prone be­cause of their huge pop­u­la­tion, the lack of ac- cess roads, and the pres­ence of il­le­gally parked ve­hi­cles.

“Kung asa tong mga con­cen­trated barangays mao pud tong mga gag­may og ac­cess roads (Where there are con­cen­trated barangays, that’s also where the ac­cess roads are small),” he told CEBU DAILY NEWS.

Ababon said that in some ar­eas, like Si­tio Tabok Canal, Barangay Pardo, the lack of an ac­cess road poses a big prob­lem to the fire depart­ment.

In Barangay Pasil, ac­cess roads are also used for overnight park­ing mak­ing the place a fire haz­ard, he lamented.

Com­mon causes of fire

Data from the Cebu City Fire Depart­ment showed that elec­tri­cal short cir­cuit was the most com­mon cause of the city’s fires fol­lowed by ac­ci­dents This early morn­ing fire in Cebu City’s Barangay Calamba, which hap­pened on Au­gust 30, 2017 formed part of govern­ment statis­tics show­ing that among all places in Cen­tral Visayas, Cebu City had the most num­ber of fire in­ci­dences in the re­gion last year. Most fires were caused by elec­tri­cal mis­use. caused by open flame and lighted can­dles or kerosene lamps.

Ababon said elec­tri­cal mis­use was often the cause of elec­tri­cal short cir­cuits.

“Com­mon man gud sa atoa nga mga Pi­noy nga og natau­ran na ta og kuryente ang atong hi­moon mo palit dayon og mga gamit. Wala ta mag lantaw sa load sa kuryente. Wala nato tan-awa ang kaya sa load sa balay sa naan­dan. Kung mag­pataud ta og kuryente, ang gi­nataud min­i­mum re­quire­ment lang nga load (It’s com­mon among Filipinos that once we have an elec­tri­cal con­nec­tion, we im­me­di­ately buy gad­gets with­out first check­ing the load ca­pac­ity. If we get a con­nec­tion, most of the time, only the min­i­mum load re­quire­ment is served),“he said.

Ababon ex­plained that power connections have to be reg­u­larly checked by an elec­tri­cian as often as pos­si­ble to de­ter­mine if they re­mained safe for the house­hold’s elec­tri­cal load.

Ababon also warned against the use of oc­to­pus connections or an ex­ten­sion cord with mul­ti­ple out­lets and sub­stan­dard wires.

Quen­nie Sanchez-Bronce, rep­u­ta­tion en­hance­ment man­ager of the Visayan Elec­tric Com­pany (Veco), mean­while ad­vised that elec­tri­cal wiring in­stal­la­tions of build­ings and houses that are more than 10 years old should be in­spected and tested at least once a year.

Wiring in­stal­la­tions af­fected by calami­ties like earthquake, flood, or fire, must also be in­spected, tested and re­paired, if nec­es­sary; along with wire in­stal­la­tions that have re­mained un­used for at least a year.

For the month of Jan­uary 2018 alone, the Bureau of Fire Pro­tec­tion in Cen­tral Visayas (BFP-7) recorded a to­tal of 76 fires in Cen­tral Visayas which re­sulted to prop­erty dam­age amount­ing to P809.39 mil­lion.

At least two per­sons were re­ported to have died; while three oth­ers were in­jured.

While most of the fire in­ci­dents recorded by BFP-7 were found to be ac­ci­den­tal, th­ese were mostly caused by elec­tri­cal mis­use.

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