Urban poor most vulnerable to fire, but inspections cannot be done

Mar. 12, 2021

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Two fires in two successive days in urban poor settlements in Davao City point out to problems in informal settlements in the city that are not subject to inspection.

This was raised by Ramil Gillado, a member of the Davao City Fire District Intelligence and Investigation Section, in an interview with Davao Today following the fire incidents.

On Tuesday afternoon, at least 300 houses were reportedly razed in a fire in Barangay Vicente Duterte in Agdao District near the coast. The Bureau of Fire Davao reported that the fire was due to an electrical spark in one of the houses in the area.

Another fire incident the next morning happened in Barangay 8-A Father Selga, also known as Lower Madapo, due to an overheated electric fan burned down the owner’s house and partially damaged two adjacent houses.

Gillado pointed out that informal settlements are more vulnerable to fire incidents because many fire safety protocols are compromised as houses are clustered tightly together and are built out of flammable light materials

“Many of the houses in these areas are made by light materials and contiguous, so when a fire incident happen it will easily burn houses,” he said.

Another problem Gillado point out is that BFP-Davao are not allowed and authorized to conduct an inspection in such residential areas that could point out the fire hazards and reduce structural fire incidents.

Only option for informal sector

The informal sector in Davao City continues to rise amidst urbanization, facing problems from lack of jobs to housing security.

One of the fire victims in Barangay Vicente Duterte, Gingging, is just one of the thousands of urban poor families in Davao City that live in extreme poverty, subsisting on less than a dollar a day.

Gingging said living in this settlement was “the only available option” for her family, as they could not find stable jobs given that she and her husband did not finish high school.

“We have no choice ma’am. My husband is only a substitute driver, so we cannot set aside extra money to build a house because we need to prioritize our food every day, milk for my children and monthly bills. This is our option because we are poor, and being poor means enduring all difficulties,” said Ging-ging as she holds back her tears.

Her family and other victims will most likely rebuild their homes in the same area. For the moment, donations such as clothing and household materials have poured in for the fire victims.

Fire prevention month

As March is fire prevention month, the BFP Davao noted there have been a decrease of fire incidents in the first three months this year as compared to last year.

BFP Davao data showed that fire incidents in January to February this year was 50, which is lower than last year’s case of 99. There had been 14 incidents from March 1 to 10 this year, a drop from 67 recorded on the same duration last year.

However, nine deaths had been recorded due to fire incidents this year, which was zero last year.

BFP-Davao has set up 12 fire stations to cover Davao City, but Gillado said they have activated the Barangay Fire Auxiliary Group to ensure quick response to fire incidents in their respective areas. (davaotoday.com)

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