TACLOBAN CITY – At least 16 towns in Eastern Visayas still lack firefighting facilities and manpower, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) reported on Thursday.

Chief Supt. Adel Bautista, BFP 8 (Eastern Visayas) director, in a press briefing said the programming of the construction of fire station buildings and procurement of equipment per local government unit (LGU) depend on the national headquarters.

Samar province has the most number of areas without fire stations and fire trucks. These are the towns of Almagro, Daram, Sto Niño, Tagapul-an, Talalora and Zumarraga.
In Northern Samar, the towns of Biri, Lapinig, Rosario, San Vicente and Victoria; and in Eastern Samar, the municipalities of Lorente, Maydolong and Mercedes also do not have firefighting facilities.

In the entire Leyte Island only the town of Pintuyan in Southern Leyte has no fire station while in Biliran province, only the island town of Maripipi has no facility.

“In Samar, most of these areas are island towns and it is challenging to find a lot and transport construction materials,” Bautista said.

He added that the procurement concerns hindered BFP’s goal to put up a fire station, provide a fire truck, and have at least four personnel in every town.

The official said in the case of some towns where there were donated properties to build a fire station, they were confronted with problems however with requirements they need to comply with, such as the accessibility of the location and clearance from the Mines and Geoscience Bureau.

Bautista said the number of towns without fire stations has been decreasing every year with the support from local government units and BFP national headquarters. In 2020, there were still 23 areas without fire stations.

The BFP regional office released the report in time for the Fire Prevention Month observance.

The BFP prepares various activities nationwide for the month-long observance. These activities are set to reinforce fire safety awareness and strengthen the bureau’s community relations with the general public.

In Central Visayas, efforts are being pushed by BFP Region 7 to strengthen its community fire volunteer brigades and capacitate them as first responders in fire incidents in their barangays.

In a media forum, Supt. Raul Bustaliño, BFP-7 operations division chief, said the fire agency recognized the role of the community fire auxiliary group (CFAG) whose volunteers are the first to respond when a fire breaks out in their village.

He said village-based fire volunteers will get extensive firefighting training apart from the effort to equip them with apparatuses that they can use as first responders while waiting for the firefighters to arrive.

“We’re reaching out to the grassroots by organizing community fire auxiliary groups as part of the “Oplan Ligtas na Pamayanan” program of the BFP to equip and capacitate barangay volunteers so that they can deal with the fire that will happen in their community,” Bustaliño said.

The fire agency in Region 7 registered 974 fire incidents in 2022 with a total of P771 million worth of damage to property. The 2022 data showed an increase in fire incidents as compared to the 906 that happened in 2021 with P332 million worth of damage to property. (PNA)