fires in the Philippines

Surge in forest, structural fires sparks community action in Cordillera

Mia Magdalena Fokno

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Surge in forest, structural fires sparks community action in Cordillera

FIRE. A view of the forest fire in Tuba, Benguet, in this photo from the Baguio City Public Information Office. The photo was taken from Purok Ongasan, Loakan Proper, on February 21, 2024

Baguio City Public Information Office.

The Bureau of Fire Protection in the Cordillera Administrative Region emphasizes the critical role of community cooperation and vigilance in preventing man-induced fires

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The Cordillera Administrative Region is confronting a critical challenge as it grapples with a surge in both forest and structural fires, recording an alarming 41 forest and grass fires alongside 14 structural fire incidents in the first two months of 2024.

This escalating situation has spurred a united front among the Police Regional Office-Cordillera (PROCOR), local government units, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and health authorities, all pushing for heightened public awareness and community preparedness against the backdrop of these emergencies.

Data provided by PROCOR indicates a substantial number of forest fire incidents across the region, including 16 in Baguio, 13 in Benguet, 11 in Mountain Province, and 1 in Apayao from January 1 to February 27.

Structural fires have also been reported, with Baguio, Benguet, Abra, Ifugao, and Mountain Province all affected.

Following the spike in forest fires in the region, BFP Cordillera has intensified its fire prevention and control measures. 

BFP CAR PIO Inspector Janelle Danie said the primary causes of these fires are open flames from farmland, land clearing, and rubbish fires. 

The BFP has rolled out several strategies, including the “Forest Fire Contingency Plan” and “Oplan Paghalasa” focusing on both ground and air suppression efforts. Despite challenges such as inaccessible terrain and high winds, the BFP emphasized the critical role of community cooperation and vigilance in preventing man-induced fires. 

“For residents in high-risk areas, following and listening to the authorities’ advice is crucial,” Daniel said.

Real-time updates on forest fires and safety advisories are available on various provincial BFP Facebook pages, ensuring the community stays informed and prepared.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Carolina Lacuata, PROCOR PIO, cited the importance of vigilance and preparedness, especially as March, designated as Fire Prevention Month, approaches.

“We are intensifying our information drive for greater public awareness and coordinating with barangay officials and other government agencies to support fire safety advocacies,” Lacuata stated.

She highlighted the collaborative efforts between local government units and the BFP on building inspections to ensure strict compliance with the Fire Code of the Philippines. The inspections focus on the necessity of fire exits, fire protection systems, and other safety features in buildings.

Lacuata also reiterated a public reminder: “We urge everyone to be cautious to prevent fire incidents, especially during the dry season in the upcoming month of March. There is no better alternative to prevent destructive fires than having an informed public about fire safety.”

The Department of Health-Cordillera Administrative Region (DOH-CAR) has also issued warnings regarding the health risks associated with the haze from these fires. Regional Director Amelita Pangilinan advised the community, particularly those with lung conditions, the elderly, and infants, to take precautions.

“The haze can cause respiratory and eye irritations. We recommend staying hydrated, wearing masks, avoiding outdoor activities, and keeping doors and windows closed to minimize exposure,” Pangilinan said.

She also encouraged households near forested or grassy areas to be vigilant and adopt protective measures to mitigate the risk of fire outbreaks. –

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