Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte has called on the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to conduct a thorough investigation, as well as undertake reforms in the Bureau of Fire Protection-Quezon City Fire District (BFP-QCFD).
Belmonte made the call as results of the probe conducted by the city government and the Quezon City Council revealed lax inspection, backlog in the examination of businesses, and other lapses in the performance of the BFP-QCFD.
“The BFP should look into how the BFP-QCFD fulfilled its mandate in the light of tragic loss of lives and properties due to recent fires in the city. Were the BFP-QCFD leadership remiss in their duties? They should hold their personnel accountable if proven guilty of inefficiency,” she said.
Belmonte earlier sought the relief of two officials from the Bureau of Fire Protection-Quezon City Fire District (BFP-QCFD) following a review of the performance of the agency prompted by the tragic loss of lives caused by the fire last August 31 in Tandang Sora.
An evaluation conducted by the city government of each fire incident that occurred this year showed on average, more damage, injury and death compared to the previous year.
“The capability and effectiveness of the BFP-QCFD in responding to these fires have lessened significantly. The city government recognizes that each fire has its own distinct volatile circumstances. Nonetheless, the severity of this year’s incidents necessitates a call for a change in the leadership of the agency. A change is needed for the welfare of our citizens. We look forward to a better performance from the BFP,” Mayor Belmonte said.
The two officials were identified as BFP-QCFD Fire Marshall, Fire Senior Superintendent Aristotle Bañaga, and the Chief of the QCFD Fire Prevention Branch that undertakes inspections, Fire Chief Inspector Dominic Salvacion.
Data from the BFP revealed that from January to August 2023, there were 153 fires recorded in the city, while there were only 219 fires from January to December 2022. With a third of the year left, there have already been 8 firefighters and 63 civilians injured compared to only 2 firefighters and 60 civilians for the entirety of last year.
Moreover, there were already 24 deaths in the first eight months of this year while there were 30 from January to December 2022. There were 8,362 individuals or 2,380 families affected by the fires up to August this year, higher than the whole of last year’s record of 7,295 individuals or 2,005 families.
“For this reason and to protect the people of Quezon City, I am calling upon the national leadership of the Bureau of Fire Protection to assign to us a new fire marshall for the QCFD and a new inspection head,” Belmonte added.
Belmonte also called on the BFP to be more transparent in their own investigation of the Tandang Sora fire.
“The BFP has failed to reciprocate the city government’s efforts to exercise transparency. They resisted our calls to be apprised of the progress of their own probe, or to our requests for coordination. We therefore ask the BFP to cooperate fully with the city government as mandated by law, to ensure full transparency and clarity in these investigations. Our people demand more, and the victims and their families deserve nothing less,” Belmonte said.
Belmonte earlier ordered the City Legal Department to form a Special Panel of Investigators to probe the incident and if warranted by evidence, to file the appropriate case(s) against pertinent and surviving officers of the business establishment involved in the deadly fire in Tandang Sora.
Local government personnel found to be liable after the conduct of the investigation will likewise face administrative and criminal charges.
“The city government continues to thoroughly investigate the devastating fire of August 31. It has coordinated with and interviewed its departments, the barangay, the homeowners association, the relatives of the victims, and the survivors, to ascertain the circumstances that brought about this tragedy. We will leave no stone unturned, and we will not spare even our own officials and personnel,” the mayor added.
The mayor assured the residents that the city government will continue to beef up the city’s fire prevention measures and efforts.
On September 14, Mayor Belmonte extended financial assistance to the families of the fire victims. Earlier, the city government helped arrange for the cremation of the remains of the victims, among others.