The Bureau of Fire Protection will be celebrating its 42nd Fire Service Recognition Day to give due recognition to the 253 brave and gallant firefighters who have displayed courageous feat while in the performance of their duty. The awarding ceremony will be on December 16, 2015 at 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon at the PNP Multi-Purpose Center, Camp Crame, Quezon City with the Theme: “Pagbibigay-pugay sa Natatanging Paglilingkod Tungo sa Maunlad na Lipunan”.
“I sincerely commend your strong sense of passion for people. You embody the best of our nation – of commitment and community, of honor and bravery – the very values at the core of your character that greatly define your love for public service”, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary, Mel Senen Sarmiento said to all the gallant men and women of the BFP. The Secretary will grace the occasion as guest of honor and speaker .
Meanwhile, Director Ariel Barayuga, the Chief Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) personally relayed his congratulations to all the awardees. “I would like to extend my congratulations to this year’s awardees and my heartfelt appreciation to all the BFP officers and personnel who have made this event possible and momentous as well as the government agencies, non-government organizations, fire volunteer groups, and every sector of the community who have been our constant partners in the promotion of safety awareness towards preservation of life and property against conflagration and other emergencies”, he said.
He also said that the awardees who have shown heroism amidst danger should be emulated and must serve as an inspiration to all civil servants. This annual event is allotted to pay homage to the firefighters who lost their lives in Rockwell Power Plant fire incident that happened on December 14, 1973, led by then Lt. Jose Fabicon, Fireman Domingo Viray and Fireman Fructuso Planas who all perished in that fateful day while fighting the raging inferno in Bel-Air, Makati City.
It can be recalled that at around 5:30 in the morning on that fateful day, residents living in Bel-Air, Makati awoke to a loud explosion. People rushed out of their houses to check what the explosion was all about. One of the residents, then Makati Fire Department chief, Col. Alfredo Garcia, whose house was just one block away from Rockwell, found out that the explosion came from the Manila Electric (Meralco) power plant. Huge plumes of smoke and billowing flames followed the explosion.
Garcia wasted no time and immediately ordered the Makati Fire personnel to rush to the scene. All seven fire stations in the city responded to the call and in a few minutes, had covered the whole area.
After sizing the condition of the fire, a number of firemen entered the power plant. At around 7 a.m. the flames continued to rage, prompting Garcia to signal a general alarm.
The firefighters informed Garcia that they would need more Light Water Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) chemicals to control the conflagration. Garcia immediately asked the help of then Makati Mayor Nemesio Yabut to make an arrangement with the U.S. Embassy to send fire experts from the Subic Naval Base in Olongapo City, as well as additional AFFF chemicals.
The mayor’s request was promptly granted by the U.S. Embassy and at around 11:00 a.m. helicopters from the US Naval Base Command headed by a certain Engineer Kinnight, a fire expert, arrived with 50 pails, each with five gallons of AFFF chemicals from Subic.
The situation, however, appeared to be getting even worse. This prompted Garcia to call then Integrated National Police (INP) chief, Gen. Prospero Olivas, for the latter to contact all local suppliers of AFFF chemicals in the country and direct them to delivery any available stocks to the fire scene.
Hours later, as the firefighters were all busy controlling the blaze, another loud explosion was heard, followed by a horrible scene of fireballs jetting up into the air as the file of bunker fuel inside the power plant exploded.
The pandemonium in the area intensified after it was learned that three brave firefighters Fabicon, Viray and Planas, were still inside the burning structure. The three never came out alive.
Outside the power plant, eight firetrucks positioned along the road were reached by the blast and were destroyed. At around 5 p.m. that day, more AFFF chemicals were delivered by the local suppliers, giving hope to the situation.
At this time, reinforcement from Clark Air Base also arrived to augment the Metro Manila firefighters. With the combined efforts of firefighters Metro Manila, Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base, the fire was finally extinguished at around 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 15, 1973, 23 hours after it broke out.
From that day on and every 14th of December every year, the BFP commemorates the heroism of the three fallen firefighters and gives recognition to its personnel who in one way or the other have given more than what they have for the service of the public.
To commemorate the heroism of the fallen firefighters of the BFP, last December 14, 2015 a Wreath Laying Ceremony was held at the Manila North Cemetery where the departed firefighters rest. BFP National Headquarters conducted a simple program to pay tribute to the firefighters who gave their lives to save others. The highlight of the activity was the sounding of siren and water streaming which symbolizes the highest form of respect to what they have done.###
BFP News Release
21 November 2015
Reference: Office of the Public Information Services, BFP-NHQ