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How does BFP investigate fire incidents?

by Maris Federez   |   Posted on Thursday, March 21st, 2019

The Bureau of Fire Protection only has one Arson Laboratory in the whole Philippines.

Any evidence in a fire from any part of the country that needs to be investigated upon would still have to be sent to the Arson Investigation Unit in the BFP main office.

The Arson Electrical Division, being manned by electrical engineers, look into the various cables, appliance motors such that of electric fans, and machines used on generators that are submitted as evidence.

They will determine how these items got burned and if they had been the cause of the fire.

Probing these pieces of evidence in a fire is not an easy job as almost all pieces submitted to the Electrical Division are already beyond redemption.

The BFP admitted that although they have magnification devices, they still need an electron microscope.

On the other hand, accelerants or chemicals that could easily cause fire are being handled by the Arson Chemical Laboratory.

The BFP personnel assigned in this unit have science background.

They use state-of-the-art gas chromatography machine that costs 10 million pesos.

The gas chromatography machine can check even the ashes that remained in the fire.

Insp. Ferlyn Cabral, the Chief of the Forensic Chemistry Unit of the BFP said, “kapag sinalang po dito sigurado po kaming makakakuha pa kami kasi parts per million yung sensitivity po. Bale dito po kasi i-subject natin sa heat through sa head space tapos hihimay-himayin po siya up to the molecular level, tapos inject po sa GC para maidentify po natin kung ano ang meron dun na flammable substance.

[we are sure that we can find something as (the machine’s) sensibility measurement is at ‘parts per million’. We subject (the item) to heat through a headspace and we break it in tiny pieces up to molecular level, then we inject them to the GC so we can identify what’s in the flammable substance].”

The BFP is undergoing modernization not just on firetrucks but also on new technological equipment of arson investigators.

BFP Spokesperson F/C Insp. Jude Delos Reyes said the modernization is for them to become a competent fire protection agency that don’t just base their analyses on hearsay but on science. – Maris Federez (with details from Mon Jocson)

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P2-M damage after QC fire, residents struggle to rebuild lives

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Several residents of Brgy. Damayang Lagi in Quezon City rummage through ashes and burnt debris after a fire broke out on Wednesday.

It was their home, or what’s left of it.

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said 750 families were affected by the fire, with P2.5 million worth of damage.

These residents still returned, hoping that there might still be something left to save. With the slate burnt to ashes, they have to rebuild their lives once again.

Paulino Yberzaba, a resident, lined up in the barangay office because he was suffering from high blood pressure. Even if he is in a wheelchair, he still patiently waited for medical assistance.

He was wearing unmatched slippers.

“Itong tsinelas ko tingnan mo, (look at my slippers)” he pointed out. “Hindi ko nakita ang kabila nito. Madilim na, (I could’t find the right pair because it was already dark)

Paulino was not able to save anything from the fire, just the clothes on his back.

Only a stone wall is left of his home, but still, he is thankful because his wife and children are safe. However, Paulino laments the difficulty of starting anew.

“Kung mayroon makatulong. Ako baldado na ko. [walang perang] maibili ng gamit, (if there is someone that can help. I am already disabled and we have no money to buy clothes)” he adds.

A doctor, several nurses and midwives visited the area to assist residents in need of medical attention. Food and water assistance were also distributed.

“Mayroon nang mga na-high blood, may mga ubo’t sipon, nilalagnat, inuubo. May mga nasugatan (Some [residents] are suffering from high blood pressure, other have colds and fever. Others are injured)” Jocelyn Ledanga, a midwife, said.

As of this writing, the local government has provided more than 10 temporary shelters for the victims. Said shelters can accommodate two to four families each.

READ: #ThinkFireSafetyNow: Worst Fire Incidents in the Philippines

Another resident, Zoraina Mamasalen, is content with the help of the government.

“Okay naman po. Maayos naman po iyong assist ng barangay kapitan po namin, (Things are alright. Our barangay captain is assisting properly)” she said.

Zoraina is among the residents who were able to stay at these temporary shelters. Others, however, are not so lucky.

There are no proper evacuation centers that can accommodate all the residents affected by the fire. Some of them had no choice but to stay in the streets, with nothing to do but wait for help to arrive.

The relief and cash assistance that are meant for these residents, however, were taken by individuals posing as victims of the fire.

Barangay Captain, Boy Tanyag said financial assistance range from P1,000 to P2,000 or more. But there are individuals who list themselves as victims in order to avail of these aid.

“Isang pamilya lang. Nagpapalista limang tao. (In one family, there are five individuals who register)” he said.

The BFP continues investigation on the cause of fire. They said it might be due to problems in the power lines.

Meanwhile, the government continues to call for aid to help the victims rebuild their lives.—Aileen Cerrudo (with reports from Mai Bermudez)

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BFP warns residents: water from firetrucks, not drinkable

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

The Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP) reminds residents not to drink the water from firetrucks, as several fire departments provided water to residents experiencing water shortage.

BFP Spokesperson Fcinsp. Jude del Rosario said that only the water from fire hydrants are safe to drink but they cannot assure the public about the water from their firetrucks.

“It’s not for drinking. Puwede pampaligo, panghugas ng plato. They have to boil it for one to two hours para masiguro na walang bacteria na nakasama before nila inumin o gamitin (It’s not for drinking, you can use it for bathing or cleaning the dishes. If they are going to drink it, they have to boil it for one to two hours to make sure there is no bacteria in it),” he said.

However, the BFP clarified that they are not mandated to provide water during water shortages unless the local government requests for it.

“Iyong pupunta lang kami doon para mag-provide, hindi iyan kasama sa mandate namin, kasi we don’t want to compromise our firefighting capability. The National Capital Region is the highly populated area na dapat naming mino-monitor. We are always on the alert status dito sa NCR (Going to residential areas to provide water is not our mandate. We don’t want to compromise our firefighting capability. The National Capital Region is a highly populated area that we are monitoring. We are always on the alert status here in NCR),” Del Rosario said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) calls on areas experiencing water service interruption to stay calm.

They are also ready to provide security in areas where water is rationed.

“Sa lahat ng mga kababayan natin ngayon na nasa pila palde at mainit ang ulo, ang amin pong pakiusap ay panatilihin ang kaayusan, kahinahunan ng isip at damdamin. Anytime po ay nakahanda ang PNP personnel na umalalay sa lahat ng mga distribution points sa buong Metro Manila at sa karatig na lugar (To all our fellowmen who are frustrated by the situation, please remain calm and maintain order. The PNP personnel is ready to assist in distribution points in Metro Manila and in nearby areas),” PNP Spokesperson Bernard Banac said.

Banac also encourages residents to be wiser when it comes to saving water.—Aileen Cerrudo (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

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#ThinkFireSafetyNow: Worst Fire Incidents in the Philippines

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

FILE PHOTO: Filipino firemen use water hoses to extinguish a fire in a slum area of Quezon City, east of Manila, Philippines, January 1, 2015. The fire, which razed more than 800 houses made from light materials, leaves thousands of families homeless during the start of the year 2015. According to news reports, the fire started when a firecracker landed in an unattended house, a fire investigator said. | PVI

MANILA, Philippines – In observance of the Fire Prevention Month this March, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) has launched interactive activities that aim to promote fire safety, fire prevention and first aid in case of fire with the hashtag campaign #ThinkFireSafetyNow.

Though the Philippines is known for disastrous typhoons, there are a number of fire incidents that left a mark in the country’s history due to the unexpected number of deaths and the extent of damages to properties.

Here is a list of some of the worst fire incidents in the Philippines:

NCCC Mall Fire (December 23, 2017) – Fire gutted the third floor of the NCCC Mall in Davao City. The fire, which went on for 32 hours, caused the lives of 38 individuals and charred about P1.6-B worth of property.

One year after the incident, the City Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the case of reckless imprudence filed by the Interagency Anti-Arson Task Force against the mall executives.

There is still no clear decision from the Office of the Ombudsman as to who among the concerned government officials will be held responsible in the incident.

Kentex Slipper Factory Fire (May 13, 2015) – Welding sparks ignited chemicals that caused the massive fire in this slipper and shoes factory. The chemicals were placed near the entrance of the warehouse and so the fire blocked the main exit of the building. The fire went on for five hours, leaving 74 factory workers dead, most of them trapped on the second floor.

Investigation revealed that the building had no Fire Safety Inspection Clearance, a requirement to secure a business permit. The owner also had no fire safety clearance to conduct ‘hot works’ such as welding.

Two years after the incident, Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian was charged with graft and reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and multiple physical injury. But Gatchalian insisted that the owner did not violate any provision of the Building Code. In December 2016, Sandiganbayan’s Second Division absolved Gatchalian. The case is still pending at the Supreme Court.

Firefighters exert effort to contain the blaze that erupted inside the armory compound of the Philippine Army‎ in Taguig on May 7, 2014.

Philippine Army HQ Fire (May 7, 2014) – Three soldiers died and 10 others were injured in the fire that ignited from the Philippine Army Explosives and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said in its investigation that some of the military’s standard operating procedures (SOP) were violated in the incident as there was no safety officer at that time and combustible materials were placed near the officers.

Several guests at the Manor Hotel are shouting for help through the protective metal grilling on the windows after a fire broke out. (Photo|AP)

Manor Hotel fire (August 18, 2001) – At least 75 people died in a fire that engulfed this accommodation in Kamuning, Quezon City, most of them were participants in a religious conference being held in the area. Investigation revealed that the establishment lacked fire safety features such as water sprinklers, fire alarms, emergency lights, and fire exits.

The new facade of Asociacion De Damas De Filipinas ( IJVelas|Wikimedia Commons)

Asociacion De Damas De Filipinas fire (December 3, 1998) –  A Catholic orphanage in Paco, Manila, the establishment was engulfed in a massive fire that killed 28 people, mostly children who were residents in the center.

Authorities inspect victims’ belongings on the doorway of Ozone Disco where a stampede took place and killed 162 people in a deadly fire. (AFP file photo)

Ozone Disco fire (March 16, 1996) – College students who were about to graduate met their demise when the disc jockey’s booth caught fire and set the pub into an inferno. A total of 162 people were killed and over 90 others were injured.

In November 2014, the Sandiganbayan sentenced nine of the accused, mostly stockholders and former local officials of Quezon City, from 6 to 10 years in prison.

It involved the person who provided the owners building and renovation permits as investigation revealed some structural and fire safety deficiencies in the building. The club had only one door and no alternative fire exit.

Even after 2014, the survivors and the Justice for Ozone Victims Foundation received only P4-M pesos from the business’ insurance.

“The biggest amount received by the families of those who were killed was P20,000 each,” lamented the group’s president Joseph Stephen Santos.

The place where the charred disco pub was erected is now the location of a fast food chain. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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