By KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — On March 12, at around 7:00 AM, vendors affected by the blaze that gutted almost one-third of the Baguio City Public Market started to gather at the burnt area, asking police officers to allow them to check their stalls in the hope of salvaging some of their goods.
A massive fire that started around 11:00 PM on March 11 destroyed Block 4 and half of Block 3. Nearby structures like the office of the Baguio Market Cooperative and the “kaldero” section were also partially damaged.
Firefighters from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and private fire brigades struggled to contain the fire until 2:00 AM. Firefighters from neighboring towns of La Trinidad and Tuba, Benguet, also assisted. Personnel of the Baguio Water District and several private water deliveries also provide water for the fire trucks. The fire department declared the fire out at around 4:30 AM.
The main office of BFP is just a hundred meters from the site. However, the arrival of the fire trucks took longer since they were parked more than two kilometers away at the Barangay Irisan substation. Several fire trucks were also responding to a forest fire at Brgy. Camp 7, near Mt. Sto, Tomas that started at around 3:00 PM on March 11 and was still ablaze when the public market fire started.
According to Fire Marshal Supt. Marisol Odiver, the fire originated at Block 4 extension area at the wagwagan (used clothes and overruns) section near the chicken livestock. They are still investigating what started the blaze. The cost of damage was initially placed at around P24 million.
Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the fire destroyed around 1,700 stalls.
The mayor said the city would put makeshift stalls along roads in the public market that are not used frequently for the affected vendors. He added that he had already coordinated with the Department of Social Welfare and Development for possible vendor assistance.
Some vendors, who could salvage products from their charred stalls, placed them on the sidewalks. But most were prevented by authorities for safety reasons. Suffocating fumes remained in the area, and investigators were still looking for the cause of the fire.
Lara Fontanilla, a fish vendor, rushed to check on her stall after learning about the fire around midnight. They just bought their fresh stocks the day before the incident.
“But the fire was already big when we arrived, and since then until now we were not allowed to check our stalls. We still have one cooler of assorted fishes, including bangus and some shrimp in them,” she said.
She asked the city government to provide them with an area to sell. “Also, we need assistance for capital to purchase new supply, this is the only source of livelihood we know,” she said.
Assistance centers were immediately set up by the Department of Social Welfare and Development Office and the City Social Welfare and Development Office at the nearby Rillera Building. Assistance distribution to the affected market vendors started at 10:00 AM. # nordis.net