#ThinkFireSafetyNow: Worst Fire Incidents in the Philippines

Marje Pelayo   •   March 6, 2019   •   10608

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)

Modernization plan seen to boost performance of BFP

Maris Federez   •   July 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) on Tuesday, July 28, said it is looking forward to the planned modernization of the agency as mentioned by President Rodrigo Duterte in his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

In a phone interview, BFP Director Jose Embang, Jr admitted that the agency is now being left behind as compared with the other fire departments in other countries.

Embang said that what they need to be on par with other countries in meeting and maintaining international standards is additional personnel, as well as equipment, training, and salary increase.

He said what the President mentioned in his SONA will be a great help to the agency.

“Ngayon lang nagkaroon, nabanggit ng isang Pangulo na dalawang beses ang modernization ng Bureau of Fire since last year, nabanggit n’ya na ‘yan, tapos ngayong nabanggit na naman n’ya. Given by the fact siguro na s’ya ay naging mayor sa Davao ng ilang dekada at nakita n’ya ang importance ng isang fire department sa isang bayan,” Embang said.

He added that the agency has only around 29,000 personnel nationwide and what they need is double that number.

He said that to be able to recruit the additional 30,000 personnel, they have to offer a more competitive salary.

He explained that more than being firefighters, the BFP is also among the first to respond to rescue operations during disasters and emergencies.

“Ini-ensure n’ya na ang lahat ng tao na nakatira sa mga establishment ay safe from destructive fires, isa lang ‘yun, prevention,” he said.

The BFP is also a support group to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in national emergencies and in fighting terrorism.

“Sini-secure n’ya ‘yung mga taong affected ng isang emergency bago ‘yung investigation, bago dumating ‘yung iba-ibang mga unit,” Embang said.

To perform these things, Embang said, the BFP would need equipment such as additional fire trucks, ladders, platforms, ambulances, rescue trucks, and hazardous materials trucks.

“Importanteng-importante po ‘yang hazardous materials truck, kasi ‘yan po ‘yung nagre responde sa mga chemical spill, sa mga bio kagaya ng COVID, sa mga radiological incident, ‘yan po ‘yung hazardous materials na tinatawag,” the BFP official further explained.

The agency is also planning to procure choppers to be used in transporting victims from high-rise buildings or forest fires, as well as rescue boats, and drones. — (from the report of Lea Ylagan) /mbmf

DILG directs BFP to assist in transfer of COVID-19 patients to isolation facilities

Robie de Guzman   •   July 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Friday ordered the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to assist in the implementation of the government’s Oplan Kalinga program.

“The BFP is part of the Municipal/City COVID-19 Task Forces and in this capacity they have been assisting the City/Municipal Health Office transport COVID patients since the start of the pandemic. In fact, they have so far transported 1,674 COVID patients nationwide,” DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said in a statement.

Año said the BFP’s Emergency Medical Service and Special Rescue Units have the necessary health personnel and equipment in the transportation of COVID patients.

Under the Oplan Kalinga program, the local government unit’s (LGU) Local Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, assisted by policemen, will go house-to-house to search for COVID-19 cases that should be transferred to quarantine facilities.

The DILG chief said that assigning the BFP in the movement of COVID patients to isolation facilities is nothing new since it has been doing this since the beginning of the pandemic.

He noted that since the start of the public health crisis, the BFP has mobilized 73.80% of the total BFP personnel or 20,947 officers out of the 29,383 total manpower to different tasks as part of DILG’s efforts to defeat COVID-19.

“We have deployed 98 BFP EMS ambulances, 35 Rescue/HazMat vehicles, 970 firetrucks and 114 BFP service vehicles for the DILG’s over-all COVID 19 response,” he said.

He also directed the BFP to intensify its contact tracing efforts as part of the local contact tracing and monitoring teams. “The BFP’s contact tracing efforts have assisted in the tracing of the close contacts of some 18,871 patients,” he said.

BFP forms special investigation team to probe ‘Boracay 27’

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 18, 2020

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) has formed a special investigation team to probe on the so-called ‘Boracay 27’ or the BFP personnel who breached quarantine protocols in Boracay.

BFP Director Jose Embang Jr. said they are prepared to file the necessary complaints once the 27 involved personnel are found guilty of breaching quarantine protocols.

The Boracay 27 reportedly visited the island from June 12 to 14 for a despedida party. One of them later tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Iimbestigahan sila and then kasuhan, kung talagang nag-violate sila ng quarantine, anyway rest assured na hindi tinotolerate ng Bureau of Fire Protection ang mga ganyang practices and whoever be found guilty, then they will suffer kung ano man ang consequences niyan (They will be investigated and will be charged if they really violated quarantine protocols. Anyway, rest assured the BFP does not tolerate these practices and whoever be found guilty will suffer the consequences),” he said.

Embang also said the 196 personnel in BFP Western Visayas Region underwent rapid COVID-19 testing and will be in quarantine while awaiting their test results.

Meanwhile, the BFP Chief of Western Visayas F/SSupt. Roderick Aguto has been relieved from office. Former Director of BFP Logistics in the National Headquarters F/SSupt. Jerry Candido was assigned as the officer-in-charge. –ACC (with reports from Lea Ylagan)


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