December 2007 Bocaue fire

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December 2007 Bocaue fire
Bocaue Explosion.JPG
Store owners attempt to put out the fire when the fireworks exploded. This incident injured seven. (Courtesy of GMA 7 TV Program: 24 Oras)
Time 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Date 31 December 2007
Location Governor F. Halili Avenue, Barangay Turo, Bocaue, Philippines
Casualties
7 injured
4 missing (all recovered)

On the morning of 31 December 2007 ten fireworks stores burned in Barangay Turo, Bocaue, Bulacan, causing a series explosions within the area. The fire lasted for almost an hour and caused several traffic jams in Fortunato F. Halili Avenue and the North Luzon Expressway.

Related incidents[edit]

Bocaue is well known in the Philippines for its fireworks production. However, because of this, the town is also susceptible to large fires every New Year.

In 1988, the town was rocked by earth-shaking blasts from exploding makeshift factories that produce firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices. Another incident in 2004 even killed 8 and affected 1000 homes. The cause of this incident is fireworks testing when a man tested a firework called higad, ("caterpillar" in English) the sparks reached a display of firecrackers.[1]

The explosions on 2007, 2004 and 1988 were among the many powerful blasts plaguing the pyrotechnics industry. These, notwithstanding the use of children in the manufacture and sale of these devices.

Government restrictions[edit]

The Philippine government has put several restrictions regarding fireworks use and several fireworks are actually banned from use. However, these restrictions are usually ignored.

The sore point of these restrictions is the Republic Act 7183 which regulates the sale, manufacture, sale, distribution and use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices. The only allowed firecrackers and pyrotechnics are enlisted in the law including the maximum amount of gunpowder that can be used in an individual firecracker.[2]

Location[edit]

Map of the Municipality of Bocaue in Bulacan province where the fire occurred.

The fire occurred in Barangay Turo, Bocaue, Bulacan. At the site there are stores selling fireworks in which they are beside one another. Beside them is an electric substation of Meralco, few meters away is the Bocaue Exit of North Luzon Expressway and there is a gas station nearby.

Causes[edit]

The Bureau of Fire Protection believes that somebody lit a cigarette and accidentally threw it into a stack of fireworks at the back of a store. The Philippine National Police believes that it is caused by a chemical reaction. The fireworks testing theory has also been a probable cause but has been since put down.

As of 2 January 2008, the cigarette theory is accepted as the cause of the fire.

Events[edit]

People run to safety when the fireworks exploded in the streets. (Courtesy of GMA Network TV Show: 24 Oras)

Even before the fire, several people noticed the problems regarding the setting of the fireworks stores. They noticed that there are no gaps between the stores and some even warned the vendors the dangers in the event of a fire.

Coincidentally, a day before the fire, December 30, the same area suffered a power blackout when a fuse of a power post exploded that morning. This left several stores and houses without power.

On 31 December 3, 2007, the firemen on duty on the area was transferred, leaving everything susceptible to a major fire.

The incident occurred a day before the New Year. Every year, this portion of the town becomes a market of fireworks and people from all over flock at this place. The trading is at its height when the fire occurred and many people are present.

At 10:00 AM, the fire began when a Judas Belt, was ignited when a cigarette was thrown away according to the authorities. It exploded and its sparks reaches a stack of fireworks from another store. Store owners attempted to put out the fire but an explosion rippled the stores entirely. In a few minutes, in what appeared to be a small firework explosion turned into a large, uncontrollable fire.

During the fire, motorists plying the North Luzon Expressway saw the smoke from the fire and even slowed down to see it.

The people ran for safety to a nearby vacant lot, just behind a terminal of passenger vans servicing the route of Bocaue, Bulacan to SM City Pampanga in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, causing a stampede. The explosion reached the street and broke some of the windows of nearby houses and establishments. Establishments across the road managed to quickly cover their glass windows and doors, thus preventing them from being shattered.

In a matter of minutes the firemen arrived at the scene and before 11:00 AM the fire was put out.

Casualties[edit]

The fire injured 7 people including two crewmen of GMA Network and there are four people missing, but they were soon recovered. All of the stores have burned and the remaining fireworks are disposed. Nobody was killed.

A total of three vehicles burned during the fire.

Aftermath[edit]

Several people are dismayed by what happened. They believe that lack of strict enforcement of local laws made the incident possible. They also believe that somebody should be liable for what happened since the fires and series of explosions shattered the glass windows around the area, causing injuries. Atty. Carlo Santiago, one of the witnesses,[3] will file a case against the store owners.

The fire department was criticized, due to an absence of firemen at the time of the fire. Although swift, the firemen still arrived too late with nothing left on the stores.

After the incident, the other store owners who closed their stores reopened. After several hours, the situation was back to normal. The prices of the fireworks also dropped significantly as the New Year approached although it is not attributed to the incident. The store owners also tried retrieve their properties and the authorities found out several flaws on the side of the store owners.

On 2 January 2008, the Bureau of Fire Protection is considering a revoke of permits to Bocaue store owners and the investigators have drawn up a list of possible "suspects" but refused to name them while the investigation is pending.[4]

According to investigators, the store owner where the fire started will not be sued since everything happened accidentally.[5] Also, the investigation of the accident is stalled due to absence of witnesses.[6]

Senator Aquilino Pimentel also proposed a total ban of fireworks. His proposal received heavy backfire especially from the local government of the province of Bulacan and from the legal fireworks factories and vendors.

The same area suffered the similar incident again on the 13 November 2009, less than two years after the 2007 incident. The incident was recorded by residents near the area and several videos have been uploaded to YouTube.[7][8][9]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

1. GMA Video of the Bocaue Fire
2. ABS-CBN article about the Bocaue Fire