By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
and NITZ ARANCON
THE PLDT-Philcom Corp. lost over P100 million worth of telecommunications equipment and materials in a fire that broke out inside its warehouse on Max Suniel St. in Barangay Carmen here at dawn yesterday.
Battling the fire was like trying to put out the flames of burning tires, said SFO3 Samson Velarde, chief of the Carmen fire station.
Stored inside were rolls of wire with thick rubber insulators, telephone sets, fiber modems, optical line terminals, batteriesalongside heaps of paper, pieces of carton, and other materials.
Velarde said the batteries may have caused a spark or there were faulty electrical wirings.
“Mora kami ug nagpalong sa kalayo sa ligid nga nasunog kay guma man gud ang putos sa mga kable,” said Velarde.
He said the fire was difficult to contain that nearly all fire trucks available in Cagayan de Oro were used, including the ones belonging to private groups with fire volunteer brigades.
Col. Allan Cabut, city fire marshal, said the fire was prevented from spreading by 7:40 am, and by 9:19 am, the situation was already placed under control.
Cabut said the warehouse had poor ventillation, and at the back was a firewall; its sides and front were covered by corrugated metal sheets — that turned the warehouse into a virtual giant oven.
He said fire fighters faced difficulties as they ran out of oxygen.
Investigators placed the structural damages alone at some P5 million.
Dario Vasallo, PLDT-Philcom head for northern Mindanao, said the destroyed materials and equipment were worth at least P106 million.
“Most of the devices and equipment that were eaten by the flames were made of plastic materials,” he said.
Vasallo said some of the company’s 20,000 subscribers in the region — about 600 of them — were affected because of the incident as electricity had to be cut off while the fire was ongoing.
He said they were not able to use their back-up generator set because it was located near the warehouse.
Vasallo said the PLDT main office in Manila instructed them to make sure all of their workers were safe.
“Our instruction from the PLDT Manila office was to secure the employees,” Vasallo said, adding that most of the 80 PLDT-Philcom personnel were asked to go home, while a few has remained to assist the firefighters by providing them food and refreshments.
Aside from the power outage, he said it was also difficult for the employees to function because of the smoke coming from the burning warehouse.
Velarde said the fire started inside the warehouse located at the back of the PLDT-Philcom business office at around 4:06 a.m.
By 9:28 am, the fire was declared “under control.”
The administrator of the school next to the PLDT-Philcom facility was forced to suspend classes due to the smoke.