By Kier Edison C. Belleza
Cebu City – Firefighters who valiantly battled the huge blaze at Metro Department Store and Supermarket – Ayala Center in this city drew widespread praise for their bravery and dedication to duty.
Images posted on social media showed flames engulfing a number of floors and smoke billowing out, enveloping the Cebu Business Park and nearby areas, leading many to fear the worst.
But the 180 government and volunteer firemen went on shifts to contain the conflagration for more than 39 hours since it broke out 30 minutes before the mall’s closing time last Friday.
Among those who were the first to respond to the fire alarm was Sr. Insp. Paul Laude, BFP-7 Special Rescue Unit chief.
Laude said his fellow firefighters had to brave the heat just to fight the fire and put it out as early as they possibly can.
Sr. Supt. Samuel Tadeo, BFP-7 Director, on the other hand, flew all the way from Davao just to check on the situation and his people, among others.
Tadeo was designated as the leader of the Inter-agency Anti-Arson Task Force Composite Team that was tasked to look into the NCCC Mall Davao fire.
Tadeo said some firefighters had slight abrasions, but he said these are “normal” during operations.
Lawyer Elaine Bathan, for her part, praised the swift response of authorities by dedicating her Facebook post to thank the firefighters and volunteers who helped douse the fire.
“They obviously look tired, drained, exhausted but they are still there. Thank you gentlemen and ladies. God bless you,” Bathan said.
Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) – Central Visayas Assistant Regional Director for Operations Supt. Rolando Orbeta earlier admitted the firefighters had a difficult time entering the fire scene due to the limited number of breathing apparatus.
“You are tireless and brave in keeping the community safe even if it means putting yourselves in danger,” Tinda Locale, an outdoor food and retail market at the Linear Park of Cebu Business Park said in an online post.