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Be warned on fires at this time of the year

One would expect that after so much publicity about the deadly mall fire in Davao City last December 23, 2017, other cities and towns and other malls would reexamine and review their own readiness against fires to ensure that they do not suffer a similar fate. But last January 5, 2018, another big fire broke out, this time in Cebu City.

The Cebu fire broke out at 9 p.m. Friday in the stockroom for toys on the third floor of Metro Ayala Cebu.

Firefighters could not penetrate the thick black smoke on the third floor. Six hours later, at 3 a.m., the fourth floor collapsed. The fire continued to burn at 12 noon Saturday, prompting the Bure.au of Fire Protection (BFP) to call for the support of the entire BFP personnel and equipment in all of Cebu province – about 50 fire trucks manned by 180 government and volunteer firefighters.

It is fortunate that the Cebu fire began as the mall was about to close, so all employees and the few remaining customers were able to get out. In the Davao fire, 36 call center agents of Survey Sampling International (SSI) and two mall employees were trapped on the third floor of the New City Commercial Mall (NCCM) and succumbed to the thick black smoke.

Investigations in both fires are underway as standard operating procedures. An Inter-Agency Anti-Arson Task force in Davao is focusing on violations of the Fire Safety Code. It has recommended the relief of five Davao BFI officials who had signed the fire certificates of SSI and NCCM. The direct cause of the fire is believed to be a short circuit when insulation of electric wires was destroyed by some sharp screws and nails.

There have been many fires in the past that took place at about this time of the year. Many were found to have been caused by failures in electrical connections, at a time of the year when electric power is in great use in homes, public places, and commercial areas because of the holiday season. Many fires in the past have also been recorded at the beginning of the year.

This should be additional reason for the authorities everywhere in the country to make special reviews of possible danger areas – malls, call centers, nightspots – wherever power lines may be overused and where many people congregate.

Davao was a tragedy and Cebu was a warning. Before any more big fire takes place, let us do everything possible in advance to avert it.