#ThinkFireSafetyNow: Worst Fire Incidents in the Philippines

Marje Pelayo   •   March 6, 2019   •   12926

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)

Fire hits National Archives office

Maris Federez   •   September 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — A fire hit a part of the National Archives of the Philippines (NAP) on UN Avenue in Manila before dawn on Sunday (Sept. 5).

The Bureau of Fire Protection-National Capital Region (BFP-NCR) said the fire started on the sixth floor of the PPL Building along UN Avenue at 1:04 a.m. on Sunday where the administrative offices of the NAP were located.

The BFP said the fire reached the second alarm before it was declared fire out at 3:13 a.m.

The estimated damage to properties caused by the fire was P800,000.

The NAP, meanwhile, assured that no casualties were reported in the fire.

It added that the agency’s archival collections are safe as they are stored someplace else.

Further investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire. —/mbmf

DOH working closely with BFP, other agencies to monitor hospitals after PGH fire

Robie de Guzman   •   May 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday said it is closely coordinating with the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and other concerned government agencies to prevent further fire incidents in hospitals amid the dry season and the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they have reached out to the BFP, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and local government units (LGU) to place hospitals under close monitoring.

“Tayo po ay nakipag-coordinate sa iba’t ibang ahensya concerned katulad po ng DILG and local governments and also to coordinated with the Bureau of Fire Protection para magkaroon po ng monitoring across al[l our hospitals because we know that fire incidents are highest during the summer season,” she said.

Vergeire issued the statement after a fire hit part of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) on Sunday.

The fire has directly affected a portion of one floor of PGH.

Vergeire said at least 12 patients were referred for transfer to other DOH hospitals. As of Monday, eight patients had already been transferred while the remaining four were being processed.

The DOH has also distributed K95 and N95 masks to the PGH since all of its personnel were required to wear this for 48 hours as smoke from the fire could still linger in the area.

“We were able to provide K95 and N95 masks to the PGH para kanilang magamit sa kanilang personnel because they were required to wear N95 masks for 48 hours kahit wala po sila doon as COVID areas because of the lingering o naka-suspend pa siyempre yung mga smoke diyan galing sa pagkakasunog,” she said.

“Ngayon po ating pinagtitibay (monitoring) para ma-prevent na po natin yung mga further incidents like this in the future,” Vergeire said.

Senate OKs bill seeking BFP modernization

Robie de Guzman   •   March 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to strengthen the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) by providing modern firefighting tools and life-saving equipment, additional personnel, and relevant training of personnel.

Voting 23-0, the Senate passed on Monday Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1832 or the BFP Modernization Act, which aims to help the BFP pursue its mandate of promoting public safety by saving lives and protecting property in times of emergencies.

Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who chairs of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs and sponsor of the measure, said that the proposed measure will ensure that the BFP will be well-quipped and sufficiently manned to suppress fire incidents and respond to calamities.

“With the help of SBN 1832, we can ensure that we will have enough fire officers, fire trucks, personal protective equipment and other equipment needed to suppress deadly fires. Also, it will allow BFP to effectively perform their duty as first responders during accidents and other emergencies,” Dela Rosa said in a statement.

The bill expanded BFP’s functions to include prevention and suppression of fire in all buildings, houses, and other structures located inside economic zones, agro-industrial economic zones, free ports, and special economic zones, Information Technology (IT) parks/centers, tourism economic zones, and other similar entities.

Added to the agency’s functions is its duty to respond to natural and man-made disasters and assist in rescue and emergency medical services provided that the BFP would coordinate and cooperate with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and Local Government Units.

The modernization program shall consist of components, such as fire protection service, force restructuring and organizational development, capability, material, and technology development, specialized services development, and human resource development.

“Again, with the help of Congress, our dream to have firetrucks and fire stations in every municipality could be achieved; hopefully, we can see firefighters with protective equipment while suppressing deadly fires; no more stories of fatalities due to lack of ambulances during accidents and emergencies,” Dela Rosa said.

Dela Rosa assured the public that the higher chamber will appropriate proper funding for the modernization of the BFP.

“The passage of this bill is the first step towards the modernization of the BFP. Rest assured that we will see to it that this law will be implemented properly,” he said.

“We will also ensure that our annual national budget will include sufficient funds for the programmed projects of the BFP for their modernization program,” he added.


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