BFP eyes fireboat, helitanker to fight possible Pandacan oil depot fire

THE Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) may have to acquire a watercraft and a chopper to help suppress potential infernos, including a possible accidental blaze at the Pandacan oil depot in Manila, a member of Congress said.

“Based on our previous consultations with the BFP, they’ve indicated the need for a boat plus possibly a helicopter capable of fighting fires from the Pasig River and from the air,” said Rep. Arnel Ty, a member of the House public order and safety committee.

“Regardless of the Pandacan oil depot’s future, a fireboat and a helitanker might be a wise public investment to reinforce the BFP’s fire-fighting capability, considering that we have communities and businesses along key riverbanks, plus a growing number of skyscrapers,” Ty said.

A member of Filipino-Chinese Volunteer Fire Brigade, Ty is the congressional representative of independent sales professionals grouped under the LPG Marketers’ Association (LPG-MA).

His remarks came shortly after Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim rejected for the second time a proposed city ordinance seeking to reclassify the 33-hectare Pandacan oil depot from an industrial to a commercial district.

The reclassification is meant to compel Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., Chevron Philippines Inc. (formerly Caltex Philippines Inc.) and Petron Corp. to dismantle and relocate their existing distribution terminals at the depot.

The fate of the oil depot is now up to Malacañang, which may sanction or rebuff Lim’s veto.

A fireboat is a specialized vessel with pumps and water cannons for fighting riverside, shoreline and shipboard fires. A helitanker is a chopper fitted with water receptacles, or mounted with fire-fighting foam cannons.

“Fireboats and helitankers can siphon water from rivers, lakes and open reservoirs, so they can be very practical when water mains and fire hydrants are busted by an earthquake,” Ty pointed out.

While the risk of an accidental blaze at the Pandacan depot may be low, oil fire disasters are nonetheless a constant risk, according to Ty, also a member of the House energy committee.

“In the US and other countries, they’ve had accidental oil fires that some said would never happen. The fires were caused by blasts while leaks were being fixed, or by blow ups during fuel transfers,” Ty said.

“But the biggest oil fire hazards may be posed by natural disasters. All over the world, there have been oil fires caused by earthquakes, tsunamis and lightning strikes during severe storms,” he added.

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