COA to BFP: Address shortage of firefighters, fire trucks

Rappler.com
The Commission on Audit finds that there are only 23,030 firefighters in the Philippines – less than half of the ideal number

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the insufficient manpower and shortage of fire trucks of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

In a report released on Friday, June 29, state auditors noted that the bureau does not follow the standard set by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) of one fireman for every 2,000 people. 

With only 23,030 firefighters, the current roster is less than half of the ideal number of 50,490 firefighters.

The BFP said it requested a bigger budget to hire at least 10,000 more personnel. The DBM, however, only approved allocations for 2,000.

The bureau also said it will enhance coordination with local officials to designate fire prevention officers and work on campaigns, among others.

Aside from the insufficient manpower, only half of BFP personnel have basic protective gear. The bureau, according to the COA report, only has:

  • 7,133 fire coats
  • 6,760 fire trousers
  • 12,718 fire helmets
  • 12,357 pairs of fire-resistant gloves
  • 11,456 pairs of fireman’s boots

The bureau also lacks self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) devices – crucial equipment for rescuers going into burning structures. It only has 1,939 units – a shortage of 7,022 units to reach the ideal 4 per fire truck ratio.

COA found that these problems stemmed from undelivered pending orders.

Records show that P852.68 million worth of protective gear ordered through the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) have yet to be delivered, some ordered as far back as 2012.

Ancient fire trucks

State auditors also found that the BFP only has 2,350 serviceable fire trucks nationwide.

That falls short of the HLURB standard of one fire truck for every 28,000 residents. According to government data, the Philippines should have had at least 3,608 fire trucks in 2017.

The COA report also showed that at least 1,094 or 39.3% of fire trucks owned by the government were bought between 1950 and 1999, with at least 8 acquired between 1950 and 1959. A fire truck is only supposed to have a “useful life span” of 5 to 15 years.

According to COA, old fire trucks are costly to maintain and could be unreliable.

“From the auditors’ viewpoint, utilizing old firetrucks incurs higher cost of major repairs and maintenance, not to mention the dangers it could possibly cause to both residents and firefighters,” state auditors said.

In May 2017, COA already ordered the BFP to buy new fire trucks instead of spending an “unreasonable” amount of money to repair aging ones. – Rappler.com