Two days after the "Fire Prevention Month" during which the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) recorded no unfortunate incident in Baguio City, fire claimed another victim. This time, it's the seven-storey Tiong San Department Store along Harrison Road. See photos in (Art Tibaldo's site).
Flames that lasted for at least five hours licked the upper two or three floors of the business edifice. Fire reportedly erupted around 1:00 pm today to which the BFP and volunteer groups quickly responded. After a supposed fire out at 4:00, flames raged once more about two hours later catching everyone by surprise and driving the already fagged out emergency responders to scramble back to the fire scene.
At 8:00, smoke still billowed from the building's 6th and 7th floors which, according to some volunteers, served as warehouses. Cooking oil, gin and other combustible materials stacked in at least one of the floors were supposed to have prolonged the fire.
Thankfully, no one was reportedly injured and the famous Rose Bowl restaurant was spared from the blaze.
Dropping by the scene at 7:00, I had the chance of eavesdropping on the conversation of Mayor Peter Rey Bautista, newsman Vincent Cabreza, Dr. Manuel Quirino and some others as we all watched several firemen who broke into the building bravely battling the fire. About four ambulances were on standby in the vicinity of the fire scene, and more than a dozen firetrucks and water delivery trucks mobbed both sides of the road fronting the building.
Strange, the Mayor remarked, that last March -- the "Fire Prevention Month" -- recorded no fire incident while February would post seven and April would take its first (and hopefully, its last). Perhaps February and April ought to be declared "Fire Prevention Months" as well, they mused. Another pointed to the public market being a potential "firetrap" to which the Mayor agreed and said the safety of the said area is part of his top agenda.
It is in times like these that one gets to appreciate more what emergency responders do. We salute the firemen, government officials, first aiders and other volunteers who readily sacrificed their time and even risked their well-being to protect or save lives and properties. Again, Sunshine Department Store's Mike del Rosario who was seen giving out food to the volunteers and whose family business-owned fire truck was expectedly there to serve, stands out as among the city's business people who have helped Baguio maintain a sense of community and service.