Krusada: Firefighters

By Nathalie Blanco, Multimedia Producer, Krusada

Posted at May 19 2012 01:41 AM | Updated as of May 20 2012 08:11 AM

From extinguishing wild fires to the acute health effects of firefighting, broadcast journalist Abner Mercado tackled the heroic account of firemen who fight to save lives and properties despite lack of sufficient firefighting equipment.

Members of the Bureau of Fire Protection make their way amidst traffic to
respond to a fire incident

In this report, Abner Mercado showed how Filipino firefighters continue to serve the public with utmost integrity and dedication despite shortage of fire trucks and breathing apparatuses.

"Firefighters serve as soldiers who are ready to put out raging fires that ruin lives and properties. But how can they do their job when they don't have sufficient weapons? They are like soldiers who go to battle bearing guns without bullets," he said.

Ever Gotesco fire

The fire that broke out at the Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City last March 16 is considered to be the most challenging fire incident in Quezon City. The fire lasted for three days before it was declared “fire out.” It is one of the 28 reported fire incidents from January to March of this year.

General Santiago Luna, Head of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) of the National Capital Region (NCR), said that Ever Gotesco’s security personnel and fire brigade attempted to put out the fire by themselves at first.

Also, volunteer firefighters who arrived at the scene later on had a hard time entering the mall due to thick smoke which required them to use gas masks with oxygen tanks.
At least 17 firefighters from the BFP and from the volunteer groups sustained minor injuries while struggling to contain the blaze.

Inadequate fire equipment

As the number of fire incidents continues to rise, firefighters readily respond to help save people’s lives and property regardless of the risk it poses to their own lives. Unfortunately, their strong dedication for their work and philanthropy is not tantamount to the quantity and quality of equipment given to them.

For local firefighters, having complete apparel is a privilege. Most firefighters
need to improvise to survive on the job.

The international standard for firetruck-population ratio is one for every 28,000. At present, there are only 147 firetrucks available when there should be a total of 465 firetrucks being used by the fire department.

Gen. Luna also discloses the dire need for self-breathing apparatuses. Presently, there are only 56 apparatuses while the number of firefighting personnel reaches at least 1,500. Firefighters resort to bringing wet “bimpo” or small towels in order to cover their noses from the dangerous fumes.

Moreover, BFP lacks spare firecoats for their men.

Firefighting runs in the family of Gagazas

The story of Senior Fire Officer 2 Renato Gagaza, his father Pablo, and his son, Rene Marc, in Fairview, Quezon City shows how one father’s devotion can pass on to his son.

Renato has served the Fairview Fire Station for 26 years. He is now 75 years old. Rene Marc is a volunteer firefighter. Rene Marc told how proud he is of his father, witnessing how Renato has saved many lives and properties that people would fervently thank him.

However, after more than two decades of service, Renato’s health is now deteriorating. Lung problems plague him throughout the day. Definitely, the lack of proper firefighting gear greatly contributed to his condition.

Rene Marc hopes that his father would receive health benefits now that he is retired.

April 12, 2012