BAGUIO CITY — Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate raised the alarm over the consecutive fires, noting that the government should act fast to quell the flames before it reaches the fire levels in the Amazon and Australia.

In a statement, the House Minority Deputy leader called the government to augment the firetrucks in the affected areas immediately. He noted that there were only three fire trucks from Tublay and La Trinidad that the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) use to put out the fires.

The first reported fire started in Kabayan town that razed over 150 hectares of forest land from February 11 to February 18. Another raged in Tublay on February 19, followed by two fires both in Baguio on February 20 and 21, and a grass fire in Sitio Cawat in Barangay Beckel, La Trinidad. Reports say two more fire broke on Saturday, February 22, in the province.

“We must help in preventing these fires and at the very least be ready with more firefighting equipment for firefighters before more forest lands, endemic plants species, animals and even people and their livelihood are affected and devastated,” he said.

Zarate also called for the immediate provision of more and better fire fighting equipment for Benguet firefighters. According to him, the government should allocate funds to allow the Benguet and other provinces with similar geography to acquire equipment appropriate with the terrain.

Fire fighting equipment, not guns

Zarate also stressed that “rather than give firefighters guns, it would be better if they are given better fire fighting equipment against forest and industrial fires.”

Early this month, Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año recommended the issuance of firearms to firefighters to help in maintaining peace and order.

He told the media that it was “timely and critical in the government’s drive against criminality, illegal drugs, terrorism, and violent extremism.”

The BFP already asked the budget department for funds to purchase about 30,000 9mm pistols for its personnel.

“Thanks, the sky poured rain”

In their official social media account, BFP Kabayan called on the public to pray for rain for Benguet following a series of forest fires that broke out this February.

The Kabayan BFP recalled that on February 23, they received a call about a raging forest fire in Barangay Eddet. They immediately rushed to the area but could not reach and stop the raging flame because it was on top of the mountain.

“Fortunately, the sky poured its rain the same day, which made the forest fire to stop,” the BFP Kabayan posted.

Meanwhile, Fire Officer 1 Kevin Pulacan, of Tublay BFP, said it was difficult for them to get through the forest. He said that they had to ask for assistance from the capital town of La Trinidad and Baguio City.

According to him, Tublay BFP does not have a smaller fire truck called a “penetrator” that could get through narrower terrains. He said that they have two big fire trucks and one tanker.

He added that they lack personnel and protective gear such as gloves, helmets, trousers, and fire boots, among others.

Pulacan explained that ideally, a fire truck should at least have a 14-man crew. He said that all in all, the Tublay BFP has 13 personnel, including the Municipal fire marshall.# nordis.net

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