That fire within

by Maria Eleanor E. Valeros, #newmedia specialist

photo from the wires

CEBU, PHILIPPINES— Imagine a fire engine with a capacity of 1,050 gallons able to dispense 500 gallons per minute through a discharge outlet measuring 2.5 inches. That would easily give us the idea that within two minutes, tank would be out of content.

Now, imagine a fire tank lorry supplying 12,000 gallons with outlet measuring 1.5 inches supporting, ironically, the fire engine mentioned above. Calculate disparity. Apply that to real firefighting scenario. Common sense would tell us why the fire bureau’s capacity to control a burning house made of light materials fails to meet the “five-minute rule of thumb.”

Configuration of fire trucks is just one of the concerns raised by Provincial Fire Marshal Victor Vibares, as he shared how the media could have helped raise awareness on this matter instead of berating them and accusing them of incompetence and “zero visibility”.

Maka-upset. Nakamenos ning ubang taga-media namo. Nganong moingon man sila nga mas maayo pa adto na lang mo-tap sa mga volunteer fire brigades kay naa pa dayon sa scene, nya kami na lang mag-volunteer. Kahibalo ba sila sa among mga challenges within?” an emotional Vibares shared this in an interview in line with the observance of March as Fire Prevention Month.

Vibares, though, made it clear he has no problem with the Provincial Government, but because in operational and administrative functions, his office shares with Cebu City and the region, it’s best to look at one of the concerns that reduce efficiency of their response and firefighting operations.

Sa configuration of donated truck pa lang daan, you do the math, it would give you the idea nga we cannot implement full operation in just two minutes even with a 50-percent pump capacity, kay suportahan man ta’g lorry nga lesser ang discharging capacity.”

What does this entail? Vibares said that normally, with 50-percent pump capability, they are able to immediately douse the blaze, put the conflagration in full control, and pull out from the area.

“We are accused nga walay tubig ang tangke. Natural 50-percent gani ang discharge capacity sa fire engine. So we leave to fetch for water. Some volunteer fire brigades take over, so kinsa may makita when we’ve already left the scene?

“It is the mandate of the law that volunteers are to receive instruction from the ground commander – the most senior government firefighter in the scene. Ayaw ko pag-ingna wala sila kaila, that’s impossible. That gesture alone sends the wrong message.

“Connect that to the specifications of our truck, supposedly to support us. How can we perform better when we are not getting the right device? In the event of inadequacy of fire hydrants, the other fire brigades are supposed to help us in the relay,” Vibares disclosed this with a chuckle.

There is also the perennial problem on the mob during fire incident responses.

When suggested that the low regard for government firefighters could have stemmed from the fact that fire hoses could easily be grabbed by some people who believe they know better than firemen, Vibares pointed out: “That’s the work of the police, to cordon the area. Kay dili man nato malikayan nga naay nasunogang desperado na, sigurista pa, mangilog na’g hose. Gusto niya unahon ang iyang balay og salbar. Totally unfamiliar of our assessment procedure.”

He took this opportunity to appeal for the help of the netizen media to disseminate information and educate the public that firefighting is a communal effort. “Instead of sige’g ataki namo, why don’t you help explain that in responding to fires we have this consideration for covering exposures.”

He meant that the procedure would involve cooling down an area near the fire to prevent the event of radiation. “Mangutana mo ngano nga bas-on namo ang dapit nga wala masunog? It’s because fire behaves differently depending on the cause. We always consider the possibility of saving a structure, if it is already consumed, then we work on preventing further destruction.”

As for retired fireman Bernardo “Boy” del Mar who used to head the training division of the said bureau, it was learned that March has been chosen as Fire Prevention Month because it is during this particular time of the year that temperatures change. It can go from very cold to very humid days, triggering spontaneous combustion, bush fires, and sparks especially in illegally tapped electric power lines.

“It does not mean that because it’s prevention month, no fire must happen; it actually means having to be very extra careful because this is the month where fire behaves in such a destructive manner,” del Mar stressed.###