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As the country observes Fire Prevention Month, BFP Chief Puracan shares important figures, updates, and tips.



In 2020, around 14,000 fire incidents were reported which cost billions in property damage and resulted in loss of numerous lives. On top of these are the additional losses incurred while the area undergoes rehabilitation and repair. Fire, needless to say, is serious business. It takes less than a minute for a small flame to grow into a major fire and if your house is made of easily flammable materials, then it can be engulfed in flames in just five minutes. And it only takes an hour or so for a house to completely burn down.

Last year, on September 10, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11589 or the BFP Modernization Act into law. This puts into motion a 10-year plan that is expected to revitalize the institution. Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Chief Director Louie Puracan expects that this will move the agency beyond its “traditional role of firefighting.”

With this development, Puracan shares his insight regarding some of our burning questions:

1. Fire protection is a major concern nationwide and the figures show that we are short on the necessary equipment, stations, manpower, etc. Ideal ratio is 1 firefighter: 2,000 people. Have we achieved this ratio?

The BFP is getting there. As of January 31, 2022, the total BFP personnel strength nationwide is 32, 952. We are very positive that we will reach the ideal ratio with the passing of Republic Act 11589. One of the provisions of this act is Human Resource Development. The modernization program shall include the development of a comprehensive training program for all BFP personnel and BFP volunteers, including mandatory training for new entrants and newly appointed personnel of the BFP and BFP volunteers and establishment of training facilities.

In this way, the BFP can hire more fire officers and train them to be competent and capable public servants.

2. In 2018, there were a total of 2,749 fire trucks nationwide—2,343 owned by the BFP and 446 owned by LGUs. Ideal ratio is 1 firetruck for every 28,000 persons. Considering the population of the Philippines in 2021, we should have nearly 4,000 fire trucks. As with the lack of manpower, is this a budget issue? What are the hindrances for us to reach the ideal ratio?

Budget plays a crucial role. This has been answered with RA 11589. Though it is a 10-year modernization program, our vision of a fire safe nation by 2034 is now a clearer picture. Because in order to have the ideal number of BFP manpower, we need to hire new fire officers to close the gap. The BFP is equipment-based, meaning hiring requires the need to procure new fire trucks, personal protective equipment or PPEs, build new fire stations, and the budget for their salaries.

3. How is BFP reaching out to partner with LGUs to ensure fire safety in all cities and municipalities nationwide?

The power lies in the BFP’s authorized representatives in the cities and municipalities, our city/municipal fire marshals (C/ MFMs). They carry a big responsibility in implementing RA 9514 and keeping the city/municipality fire safe. While the LGUs play a big role in the enforcement of such, C/MFMs always coordinate with the BFP in the issuance of Fire Safety Evaluation Clearance (FSEC) to ensure that safety standards are met and in accordance with the Building Code and the Fire Code of the Philippines.

4. The ideal response time is 5 to 7 minutes after a fire incident is reported. What is our average response time nationwide?

If the ideal is not met, what are the reasons behind this? The BFP responds within this time period, however, there are factors that may hinder our firefighters to respond within the time frame in some cases. One is that fire incidents are not reported right away. And in some instances, the address of the scene cannot be found or is difficult to find due to streets with same names or barangays overlapping boundaries. In some provinces, where a number of municipalities do not have their own fire station and fire truck, if they seek help from other municipalities which have their own and would take a couple of minutes before our firefighters reach the fire scene. Also, far flung areas in some provinces, are tagged as ‘red areas’ (insurgent infested areas) which make it hard and dangerous for our firefighters to reach.

5. In case of a fire emergency and the firefighters have not yet arrived, what should people do or not do?

The residents or the people in that area should call the fire department immediately. It’s the first important thing to do. And while waiting for the firetruck to arrive, people should stay away from the burning building/area to avoid possible injury and accidents. When the fire truck arrives, people should give way to our responders and should not block their way in any other means. In a fire scene, people’s emotions are high and they tend to do whatever they can to save their belongings. Some reports show people snatching the fire hose from our crew in trying to save their own properties. These scenarios sometimes injure our personnel and some are even assaulted.

6. March was designated as Fire Prevention Month since this month accounts for the highest number of fire incidents nationwide. What are our campaigns to help lessen fire incidents nationwide?

This year our theme is: “Sa Pag-iwas sa Sunog, Hindi ka Nagiisa” Our fire safety awareness programs include a kick-off program which involves motorcades, rallies, and concerts. Beyond the festivities, we shall also conduct community fire protection planning. Every fire station shall schedule Community Fire Protection Plan (CFPP) planning activities during Fire Prevention Month. The city/municipal fire station shall determine vulnerable barangays in the area of responsibility (AOR) to undergo the planning process. The said activity shall be done in coordination with the concerned local government unit. There is also a Kaisa Partnership Campaign in coordination with the business sector and OLP On the Road which consists of a periodic roving of their respective communities. Using a public address (PA) system, the public shall be informed on basic fire safety tips.

We will also spread infographics and advocacy posters, and conduct a community relations week wherein we shall strengthen our relationship wti the communities through various activities (such as games, open station tours, barangay fire drills, exhibits, firefighting tournaments, etc.). The BFP is also determined to intensify our presence in the media through integrated online and offline campaigns. We are also launching a film and photography festival called “Apoy at Lente.”

7. What are the top causes of fire incidents?

Based on the latest fire incident statistics, the following are the data dated February 24, 2022 gathered nationwide:

1. Electrical ignition caused by loose connection or arcing 2. Smoking (lighted cigarette, cigar or pipe) 3. Open flame from cooking (LPG/gas stove, firewood); open flame due to torch or sulo

8. Every year, the total estimated damage to property reaches an average of Php4.65 billion and there are an average of 251 deaths. Are there certain places that are more vulnerable to fire incidents and why? Or why is our country particularly vulnerable to fire incidents?

Yes. Since the Philippines has a dense population, some of our fellow Filipinos build their homes using light materials which can easily catch fire.

9. In the USA, there is this new fire extinguisher technology called Elide Fire Ball which self-activates when in contact with fire. What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of using these new technologies when it comes to fire extinguishing?

New technologies always have their own advantages and disadvantages. In this case, the Elide Fire Ball does not require extensive training to detonate or special technique to be able to activate it once in contact with flames. Anyone may readily use this tool to suppress fire. Once it detonates, it creates a loud noise which alerts people nearby. It explodes within 3 to 5 seconds of contact with fire, making it one of the fastest ways to extinguish flames. However, this device can only be used once to put out flames. Once it makes contact with fire, it cannot be reused in the other parts of the burning area.

10. What are the latest advancements in technology or strategy that the BFP is employing?

The BFP continues to procure firetrucks and other equipment. On January 25, 2022, the BFP distributed 65 units of brand new 1000-gallon fire trucks to LGUs nationwide. In addition, 104 fire trucks are in the pipeline for procurement and eventual distribution to other cities and municipalities across the nation.

The BFP also has its K9 Unit, the first ever BFP-K9 unit and is one of the support units of the Special Rescue Force (SRF) and is part of the Modernization Program. The said unit is composed of 21 dog handlers with their 21 Search and Rescue Dogs (13 Belgian Malinois and 8 Jack Russel Terriers) which recently graduated from the Search and Rescue Dog Trainer Course held at Kawa-Kawa, Brgy. Tuburan, Ligao City on February 17, 2022.

This new additional endeavor of the BFP is a huge help to speed up rescue and retrieval operations usually conducted after man-made and natural disasters. To cap, Puracan reminds every Filipino that while fire prevention is particularly important during March, it is something that should be observed throughout the rest of the year. “The BFP, as the lead agency of the country for fire suppression, is one with the public in combating destructive fires. The public should not be complacent and rely only on our awareness of fire safety tips but also be vigilant with our surroundings,” he ends.

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