High-rise rescue

- City looking to purchase multi-million 15-story ladder trucks

The city government will finally be investing in more advanced firefighting equipment, months after the deadly shopping mall fire that killed 38 in December last year.

Part of the recently approved Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund Investment Plan (LDRRMFIP) earlier this month was an item for the purchase of high-rise ladder trucks with a total allocation of P129.6 million.

The items were originally broken down into a specific number of units but councilors insisted to allocate a lump sum amount to fast-track the bidding process.

In April 2016, the Makati City government brought a ladder truck that is capable of reaching 20 stories high. They brought the equipment for P85 million.

The approved LDRRMFIP was worth P426.5 million and approved by the city council last week.

Following the post-incident report, the Bureau of Fire Protection pointed out that one of the challenges in reaching the victims trapped in the upper stories of NCCC mall was the lack of high-rise ladders.

Instead, they had to settle for a more frontal approach, suppressing the fire through water blasts.

With no breaching equipment, the firefighters had no other means to reach the victims. President Rodrigo Duterte himself announced that there was no one who survived the fire.

City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) head Emmanuel Jaldon said in an interview that the high-rise ladder would allow rescuers to rescue trapped victims and use hoses from elevations of up to 15 stories high.

“More importantly, it would also allow us to vent structures on fire,” Jaldon said, referring to a breaching of airways in which smoke can exit a burning building.

Most of the victims of the fire were found to have died of smoke inhalation.

The city is also planning to construct a disaster evacuation center in the second district. The plan also includes an improvement of the CDRRMO building.

The total amount for the items to be purchased starting this year amounted to around P312.8 million.

The rest of the amount comes from what was left of last year’s quick response fund, amounting to around P114 million. Earlier in June, Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano revealed the BFP will be receiving P1 billion for modernization of its equipment.

Among the investments is the purchase of at least five high-rise ladders for Region 11.

The Department of Interior and Local Government already recommended the filing of cases against 32 BFP XI officials and NCCC mall management executives for the deadly fire. Also included in the cases are officials of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and city building office.