By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

BLAZE. Firefighters respond to a fire that hit a commercial building in Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila on March 19, 2024. The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) on Tuesday (March 26) said it has logged over 5,000 fire incidents from Jan. 1 to March 26 this year, most of which occurred in residential areas. (PNA file photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) on Tuesday said it is ramping up efforts to raise fire prevention awareness in communities amid an uptick in the number of fire incidents in the first three months of this year.

In a Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon briefing, BFP spokesperson Fire Supt. Analee Carbajal-Atienza said they logged a total of 5,174 fire incidents from Jan. 1 to March 26 –27 percent higher than the 4,077 incidents logged in the same period last year, most of which occurred in residential areas.

These fire incidents also claimed 112 lives, injured 331 others and caused PHP2.66 billion in damage to property, she added.

“We are reaching out to the communities. We provide refresher courses and training for our fire brigades, as well as conduct fire drills and demonstrations in malls, industrial establishments and especially in our hospitals. We are also utilizing social media to improve the knowledge and level of awareness of our fellow Filipinos,” Atienza said in Filipino.

Atienza said the three leading causes of these fires are “rubbish fire to structural fire”, smoking or lighted cigarettes, and open flame from cooking.

She attributed the increase to the community’s lack of knowledge in preventing fire, stressing that the majority of these fires occurred in residential areas and many of the residences hit by fire are informal settlements.

“We all know that residences are not covered by (regular) fire safety inspection under the fire code,” she added.

Atienza said they are improving fire prevention and evacuation response in hospitals following the directive from the Task Force El Niño on the matter.

“We keep in mind that in hospitals, there are immovable patients who cannot evacuate on their own so they have to be assisted. We are also prioritizing the installment of emergency exits and fire alarms in hospitals so that occupants are informed. It is also important that our employees regularly conduct fire and earthquake drills for them to be prepared for these emergencies,” she added.

March is Fire Prevention Month through Proclamation 115-A signed by the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. in 1966. (PNA)