Imagine firefighting units equipped with fireboats deployed on coastal areas, helicopters that can go anywhere, rescue and hazard material trucks and other emergency vehicles and equipment.
Then visualize individual firefighters decked from head to toe with the latest personal equipment like fireproof garments, top-notch life-support systems, aside from the usual oxygen tanks and jaws-of-life cutters to free up victims from vehicle smashups.
All of these may soon become a reality as Secretary Eduardo M. Año hailed the approval by President Rodrigo Duterte of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Modernization Act principally authored by Senator Christopher “Bong” Go and sponsored by Senator Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa.
As head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) which supervises the BFP, Secretary Año said the new law will bring the bureau into the 21st century.
He said the provisions of the law will also significantly improve the country’s capabilities toward fire prevention, rescue and the provision of emergency medical assistance.
The law’s passage was also timely as the bureau is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, he added.
“There are now more reasons to celebrate as this will allow the bureau to fully modernize its firefighting tools and lifesaving equipment and professionalize the fire personnel and fire services,” he said, adding the BFP will not only be modernized but will have an expanded role.
Aside from fire protection services, the BFP will also respond to natural and man-made disasters, perform rescue operations, provide emergency medical services, and handle the containment of hazardous materials, just like the fire services of other countries.
The procurement of the equipment will go hand-in-hand with the construction of more fire stations nationwide and the hiring and continuous training of BFP personnel, the DILG chief said.
At present, the BFP has 30,811 personnel or just over 55 percent of the ideal 55,270 strength to serve the over 110 million Filipinos.
According to BFP officials, the ideal firefighter to population ratio is one for every 2,000 people and one fire truck manned by 14 personnel, ready to respond to emergencies, including chemical, biological and other threats.
The BFP only has 3,046 out of the ideal 3,947 fire trucks, and 1,194 of these are over 20 years old.
DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya also defended the provision in the BFP Modernization Act that will create security and protection units.
“Only 14 fire officers for every BFP regional office and city fire station will be authorized to carry a firearm as members of the security and protection unit. There will be no such unit in the municipal fire stations,” Malaya said.
“Since there are 17 fire regional offices and 146 city fire stations, this means only 2,282 fire officers or 7.9 percent of the 32,800-strong BFP will carry firearms,” he said.
According to Malaya, fire officers will be armed with pistols for self-defense purposes as fire victims, out of frustration, sometimes gang up on fire personnel during firefighting operations.