Far away from Dumaguete, I only heard about the fire that gutted the corner of Perdices Street and Silliman Avenue a few days after it happened. And now, deprived of my weekly dose of the Metro Post, I can only wonder whether the recriminations, excuses, and calls for greater vigilance are making their rounds in the community. Until another issue, quite likely political, overlaps those concerns, of course.
Fire is a seasonal event in Dumaguete. While one might consider that a comforting thought with regard to the flu, it should be cause for alarm when it comes to fire. Seasonal, after all, means that it happens with expected regularity. One cannot fight the virus, perhaps except, after the fact; one can take preventive measures against fire. A virus can put a person down for a week; a fire can eat up millions of pesos worth of property -- not to mention lives -- forever.
It doesn't take a genius to see why fire happens with disturbing regularity in Dumaguete. One only has to look around and see.
Look at the buildings around the city. Most are made of wood. Not just any wood, either, but wood that's turned brown and dry with age. Just perfect for the kindling. You just know that it will only take one spark is all it takes to turn it into a bonfire.
Look at the electrical wires overhead. See how they're stretched and tangled like thick strands of spaghetti. As you walk into Perdices Street, for example, cast your eyes a little above the horizon and note how black that stretch looks. This arrangement is ripe for a spark, like the match that sets fire to the kindling.
Look at the narrow crowded streets. How quickly do you think a firetruck can navigate into a burning area? How fast can you clear a zone for firefighting operations?
And finally: look at the Dumaguete City fire station. Or rather, more accurately, look at the building beside the Dumaguete City fire station. Or rather, more accurately still, look at the burnt remains of the building that used to stand beside the Dumaguete City fire station.
Will these things ever get fixed? The answer, then, by way of a joke:
There was once a couple whose roof was leaking. His wife nagged him to fix the leak. "Aw, honey," he said, "it's raining right now." The rain stopped, and his wife reminded him about the roof. "Aw, honey," he said this time, "it's not leaking now."
Aw, honey, Dumaguete's not burning now.