On the eve of the start of Fire Prevention Month, a fire broke out in a residential neighborhood in Makati. Only about 10 houses were destroyed, but a couple and their three young grandchildren were trapped in their house by the blaze and died.

The next day, the first day of the month, another fire broke out at a two-story warehouse in Parañaque. Firefighters quickly put out the blaze and no injuries were reported. Damage to property was minimal, but more fires are expected in the coming weeks. The country typically sees the highest number of fires during March, at the onset of the dry season, and firefighters are on alert for the entire month.

Several programs have been lined up by groups and agencies led by the Bureau of Fire Protection to remind the public about fire safety measures. The killer fire in Makati, for example, is believed to have been triggered by a lamp that was overturned in a house where electricity was reportedly cut off. The BFP and local government authorities should also include reminders to the public, especially in rural areas, about the danger of being electrocuted if open wires and sockets are touched with wet hands or when barefoot on wet ground. Such accidents have caused countless deaths around the country.

Apart from reminders to the public, this special month should also prompt a review of the government’s fire-fighting capabilities. While improvements have been made in the past years, government firefighters still face an acute lack of equipment, from protective clothing to long ladders and tools for breaking down window grills and heavy doors. The country still does not have enough fire trucks.

Also needed is simplification of procedures for securing fire permits. The red tape and corruption that accompany fire inspections in many areas discourage many establishments from getting fire clearances.

President Duterte, who wants to cut red tape and eradicate corruption in the bureaucracy, should order a crackdown on BFP and local government personnel who engage in the sale of fire extinguishers and refuse to issue clearances and permits to establishments that refuse to buy from them. The corruption makes compliance with fire safety rules a pain for business establishments including micro enterprises.

Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Fires are among the most preventable accidents. That fires have killed thousands in this country in the past years indicates the inadequacy of firefighting capabilities. Fire prevention calls for public cooperation as well as political will to provide sufficient resources for firefighting as well as to clamp down on those who compromise public safety with corruption.

NOTE : All publications and photographs have been taken from the Internet.

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