It was around 7 PM, mid-March. Following the regular routine, the students prepare their dinner in a common kitchen on the first floor in their three-tier boarding house which is conveniently situated near the school campus. At that time, two out of several charcoal stoves, properly queued against the wall, were in operation. A couple of kitchen stoves fueled by Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) were also available, one placed in the far corner of the kitchen space next to a common bathroom, the other under the stairs near the charcoal stoves.
The newly-refilled LPG tank was yet to be used, and the boarders started to prep the tank by attaching its regulator connected to the stove under the stairs. However, the gas started to aggressively leak from the tank and almost instantly, the gas found its way to the heat of the charcoal burners.
A fire has started.
Shiella Manalo, a graduating college student and one of the residents of the boarding house shared that when the fire started, they panicked and immediately went outside for help.
“Nataranta po kami [nung nagsimula ‘yung apoy.]. Nagtakbuhan po kami palabas para humingi ng tulong (We panicked when the fire started. We ran outside to seek help),” said Manalo.
Fortunately, the fire was not meant to survive for long, as the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) intern and Criminology student Christine A. Ventura went and responded to the scene. Currently staying at a neighboring boarding house, Ventura, when alerted by the situation, immediately checked the area.
Serving as an on-the-job trainee (OJT) in BFP, Ventura learned first hand from the fire-fighters assigned in San Jose Fire Station. Equipped with the knowledge on the nature of fire and fire-fighting, she confidently faced the flames with a fire extinguisher on hand.
One of the residents explained that there was one among them who knew how to use a fire extinguisher, but the equipment was stored on the second floor. At the time of the incident, the stairs were too hot to climb as the fire was strong in the area. It was only after Ventura responded that they were able to climb through the stairs, retrieve the equipment, and use it.
Upon investigation of the BFP, it was found out that the LPG tank had a loose part which caused the leak. The students explained that their tank was fairly new, but when they had it refilled, it was replaced with a different tank.
“Noong una, okay naman [ang gasul] kasi nagamit pa namin siya. Nitong pangalawang [refill] lang namin [nagkaroon ng problema] (At first we were able to use the tank without any issue. It was only after the second refill that a problem arose),” Manalo said.
Ventura underscored that her training at the BFP played a vital role in her response and it had provided her a way to save her schoolmates from danger.
“Nai-apply ko po yung mga naituro sa amin ng aming mga instructor dito sa BFP, [kaya] malaking bagay po na binigyan kami ng opportunity na [matuto] na naging way para makatulong kami sa ibang tao,” Ventura mentioned.
(I was able to apply the things our BFP instructors taught us. It is a big opportunity for us to learn from the BFP which enables us to help others.)
As of date, two (2) fire cases occurred in San Jose in March. Thanks to Ventura’s fire-fighting skills combined with courage to face it, along with the students’ good call to ask for help, the town had one less fire case to worry about. Possible hefty damages were avoided, and most importantly, lives were spared.
March is declared as National Fire Prevention month, and while the BFP works all-year round for fire prevention through conducting regular fire education, fire safety inspections, and providing emergency response, their efforts are amplified especially this time of the year.
A recent activity of the BFP San Jose called BFP Open House welcomed not less than 50 students from various schools in San Jose. The activity featured the four corners of the bureau’s functions, and is only one of the various activities of the office to raise the public’s awareness on the nature of fire, and proper response whenever a fire situation arises.
SF01 Norly Santos of BFP San Jose taught that the backbone of fire-fighting is education. If the public is educated, he added, fire cases will decrease as they know how to prevent fire and respond when it happens.
With all that had happened on that eventful day, Manalo and her housemates were reminded of an important note: pay close attention to discussions on fire safety and learn how to use a fire extinguisher.
“At siguro gagamit na lang kami ng uling sa pagluluto (we’ll just use charcoal for cooking),” she jokingly added. (DSG/PIA MIMAROPA)