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Sky lantern eyed in QC fire that gutted 15 houses

File photo of sky lanterns being lit in Christmas celebrations in Manila. The Bureau of Fire Protection wants more regulations on the use of the lanterns, especially in residential areas. PAULO VECINA
The online news portal of TV5

Fire officials are looking into the possibility that a sky lantern may have caused a fire that hit a residential area in Commonwealth, Quezon City, at the height of New Year's celebrations early Tuesday.

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said 12 fire incidents were reported in Metro Manila on New Year's eve.

Chief Superintendent Santiago Laguna, regional director of BFP in NCR, said that of the 12 fires reported, seven happened in residential areas. The total damage from the fires around the metro reached P4 million, lower compared to 2011's P10 million damage cost.

In one incident in Quezon City, a sky lantern was suspected of having caused a fire along Commonwealth Avenue. The fire developed along Pag-ibig Street, affecting 15 houses and destroying an estimated P300,000 worth of properties. According to investigators, residents reported seeing at least 10 sky lanterns landing on their roofs before the fire started past 1 a.m.

No injuries were reported.

Chief Inspector Renato Marcial, BFP-NCR spokesman, called on the public to help them identify people
who lit up sky lanterns, so they can help in investigating and determining who is ultimately responsible for the fire in Quezon City or anywhere else that lanterns will be found to have caused damage.

On Monday, December 31, the BFP appealed to the public to refrain from using sky lanterns in residential areas. Sky lanterns, powered by candle wax or alcohol, was billed as be a potential cause of fires, said BFP officer-in-charge Chief Superintendent Ruben Bearis Jr. Bearis acknowledged that sky lanterns are increasingly becoming popular among revelers, but said using these in residential areas is as dangerous as lighting pyrotechnics and firecrackers. Should a sky lantern catch or fall on the roof or on any combustible material, it can lead to a bigger fire.

The BFP said sky lanterns should only be used in open spaces such as bay areas and fields.

Bearis wants local government units to pass ordinances banning the use of sky lanterns in residential areas.

Fires were also recorded in Tondo, Manila and in Marikina City, but the BFP did not attribute these other incidents to sky lanterns.

No one was reported killed from the fires around Metro Manila on New Year's eve to early January 1. However, a firefighter, identified as Fire Officer 2 Edgardo Medina, sustained minor injuries when
responding to a fire in Caloocan City.

The BFP-NCR also reported that a public bus caught fire at the corner of EDSA and Ermin Garcia Street in Quezon City on New Year's eve. The fire was quickly put out by responding firemen.

The Amado V. Hernandez Elementary School in Tondo, Manila, was gutted by fire early January 1. Arson investigators said the fire started at the second floor of the two-story building, particularly inside the
property custodian's office. The cause of the fire is still being determined. 

In 2011, BFP-NCR said 21 fire incidents were recorded from December 31 to January 1.

The BFP-NCR started with their fire safety campaign as early as November in the hopes of reducing fires around Metro Manila on New Year's eve. The BFP also vowed to pursue their proposal of a total
firecracker ban in the coming years.