Cebu News

Not even ‘summer’ yet 32 grassfires recorded in Cebu City in 3 months

Bryner L. Diaz, Jessa Agua - The Philippine Star

CEBU, Philippines - Although the full effect of the El Niño phenomenon is not yet felt and the dry season is not here yet, the Cebu City Fire Department has already recorded 32 grassfires this year, including one that hit Monterrazas de Cebu in Barangay Guadalupe yesterday.

The fire alarm was received around 1:05 p.m., with the last ember extinguished at 2:30 p.m.

The fire burned the grass at a vacant lot of Monterrazas de Cebu, the second incident to hit the high-end residential enclave this year.

Cebu City Fire Marshall Rogelio Bongabong Jr. believed the fire was caused by motorists indiscriminately throwing their cigarette butts that cause the dried grass to catch fire.

Bongabong said his men had a hard time reaching the scene and dousing the fire because of the difficult terrain.

“Pareha ato kaganiha naa sa pangpang, baktason na lang sa bombero, paghapakon aron mapalong,” he said.

He said that because of the rough terrain, the responding firemen thought of seeking help from the Philippine Air Force; Bongabong, though, dismissed the idea because the fire was still manageable.

He appealed for the public to avoid backyard burning of garbage, which is banned by the city government, as there is high probability that it, too, would cause fire especially if left unattended.

“Mao man gud nang gibuhat nga pagdaob, di mabantayan mokaon sa uga nga sagbot,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration yesterday said a “weak drought” is already being experienced in Cebu this month.

"The central office has yet to officially announce this. But, yes, we are feeling a weak El Niño now. We are already on the tenth day of the month and we only have few rainy days. As per forecast as early as last year, March will have abnormally low rainfall and it's happening," said PAGASA Visayas Director Oscar Tabada.

He said that the probability of an El Niño, which is characterized by a dry spell, occurring in the Philippines this year is at 50 to 60 percent.

PAGASA data shows that the average rainfall for March is 58.6 millimeters and the normal temperature is 27.8 degrees Celsius, while the average number of rainy days is eight.

Tabada said that from March 1 to 9, rainfall was only 17.7 mm, or an equivalent of just three days of rain.

So far, the hottest temperature recorded this month reached 31 degrees.

"Historically speaking, April is the driest month, and May is the hottest month. With El Niño this year, March will have unusually low rainfall considering that it is the peak of the weak El Niño. This will improve a little in April but (it would) still below normal," Tabada said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminis-tration of the United States of America has already issued an El Niño advisory on the unusually low rainfall and high temperature.

"It is not only NOAA in the US that has forecast the El Niño. The same thing with Australia and Japan, among other meteorological agencies," Tabada said.

For this reason, he cautioned authorities the public that the possibility of fires, especially bushfires and grassfires like what happened in Monterrazas yesterday, happening is high.

"We should be mindful for cases of fire. With dry soil and leaves, grassfires are mostly likely to happen. Irresponsible throwing of cigarette butts can also cause fire. We should be extra careful," he said.

Bureau of Fire Protection records, show the agency responded to 52 fire alarms from January to March 10 this year, which is 40 percent lower than last year’s 87 incidents.

During the same period in 2013, however, only 27 fire incidents were reported

Based on the same BFP data, the common cause of fire are electricity and unattended candle, lighter or gasser, and that the most number of incidents occurred in barangays Lorega San Miguel and in Ermita.

This year, the Cebu City government has set aside P96 million for the firefighting equipment and accessories. — with Kristine B. Quintas/RHM (FREEMAN)

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