Aggressive Fire Suppression in Early 20th Century Philippines


In the early years of the 20th century, The Philippine government adopted a policy of aggressive fire suppression. Professional firefighters were trained to detect and fight fires, and station house were integrated in strategic locations throughout our nation. The goal of fire suppression is, first, to stop or decrease the rate of a fire's spread, and secondly, to put it out. There are three elements to any fire-- fuel, temperature, and oxygen-- which have actually become called the fire triangle.

To suppress a fire, firefighters should break this triangle, by getting rid of the combustible products, by reducing its temperature, or by smothering it so that it has no oxygen.

Suppressing fires ended up being considerably more efficient after The second world war and when brand-new fire engine, helicopters, smokejumpers, fire retardant clothing and brand-new fire combating methods were introduced into the battle versus fires. It appeared as if the raving infernos that had actually ruined home and intimidated individuals would end up being the massive catastrophes of the past, limited to little break outs that could be rapidly brought under control.

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It has been observed that when people hear fire or smoke detector, their very first response is generally to search for the factor for the alarm instead of right away escaping or reporting a fire. In some situations, nobody is present to hear an alarm or if they do hear it, they might pick to ignore it totally.

If they recognize it is a fire, they might try to eliminate it themselves, alert or assist others, or gather valuables The type of building in which an emergency alarm activates is a key aspect in the way individuals respond.

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Generally, an alarm in a home results in a really fast action by residents while response to an alarm in public assembly tenancy might be anticipated to be sluggish. This suggests that source of call measures stratified by tenancy type would be helpful in taking a look at overall response time steps.

Fire spread may also be affected by fire notification and dispatch. The more time it takes to notify the fire department, the more time fire has to spread. However, monitoring services may be more likely than individuals to report confined fires, since individuals are likely to put these minor fires out themselves. To identify this, the source of the call would have to be examined along with fire spread. Compared to all buildings, a building with an alarm monitoring system may be more likely to be equipped with an automatic fire detection and/or suppression system, which would increase the likelihood that a fire would be detected early or contained to the room of origin.

The measure might be further strengthened by examining the percentage of calls made by either individuals or alarm monitoring services by presence or absence of automatic suppression systems. In the National Capital Region with a population of 11.86 Million, it is where most of the biggest and disastrous fire transpired thus, effective and efficient firefighting is very essential. Unfortunately, the BFP firefighters were lack in proper personal protective equipments and modern firefighting equipments which is very significant in carrying out their mandated tasks.


There are several studies, some of which date back to the 1970’s, that highlight important performance measures for fire departments to consider when evaluating workload, performance, efficiency, and effectiveness. There have been some key changes in fire codes since the 1970’s. This can have an impact on measures of fire department performance. Fire detection and suppression equipment is now required in most new construction. For the fire service, the desired fire protection outcomes - which are not easily measured - include fires prevented or suppressed, and ultimately the human life and property preserved. You cannot measure a program without first clearly identifying the goals and purpose of that program, in other words the intended outcome. Goal statements are qualitative statements that typically generalize the intended outcome of a program in words rather than numbers. This is the first step to evaluating performance. Once intended goals are established, the department must identify the functions or actions that are taken in order to achieve said goal.

They must also consider available resources - whether monetary, equipment, or person-hours. Why measure performance? Robert Behn points out, “neither the act of measuring performance nor the resulting data accomplishes anything itself; only when someone uses these measures in some way do they accomplish something.” Performance measures are the quantitative or numerical representation of activities and resources that help evaluate whether the goal is met. The easiest and best way of applying quantitative performance measures to qualitative goal statements is to specifically identify target rates or percentages for each goal. For example, one qualitative goal statement for the fire department might be to “control fire spread upon arrival.” The department could use the measure: percentage of fires that did not spread beyond the area of origin after arrival of the fire department.

When talking to public administrators and town officials, saying 88% of fires did not spread beyond the area of origin after fire department arrival doesn’t really mean much without an identified target goal. Of course, ideally everyone wants 100% of fires confined to the area of origin, but it is not always the case. Realistic target goals should be set. Communities aren’t static; they grow and change over time. Population size and characteristics can change. Building types and construction materials can change. A change in department policy (i.e., personnel levels, inspection frequency) can affect performance. The fire department should take all of these issues into consideration and compare its own community’s characteristics and department policy over time.

According to The Rand Fire Project, any public service must be measured by its effectiveness, efficiency, and equity. Effectiveness is concerned with the basic reason for providing the service. Measures of effectiveness determine how well a service does what it is supposed to do. To determine effectiveness, it’s important to look beyond immediate output and determine the associated consequences of that output. Efficiency is concerned with how well resources are used in providing the service. Efficiency measures are an economic criterion, most often associated with money. Equity is concerned with the relationship between those who pay and those who benefit. Equity measures look at the fairness in levels of service provided and citizen expectation (Chaiken and Ignall).


The Manila Fire District (MFD) reaffirms five broad goals: 1. Improve Fire/Emergency Response Operations

2.1 Enhance the Department’s preparedness to respond to fires, emergencies, disasters and acts of terrorism. The Department’s highest priority continues to be to enhance its operational capacity to respond to fires, pre-hospital care emergencies, building collapses and hazardous materials incidents, as well as natural disasters, terrorist acts and other emergencies.

2.2 Fire Management Program

2.3.1 Pre-Suppression Training: All personnel shall receive training in first aid, fireline safety, fire behavior and techniques and methods of fire suppression. This shall include periodic hands-on training with hand tools and equipment, as well as crew and fireline organization. Supervisors and fire management personnel need special training in fire control tactics to insure their competence when directing fire suppression operations. Pre-attack planning is required at Administrative Staff and Branch levels for the gathering, coordinating and recording of intelligence, as well as the construction of certain fire control facilities, to insure the rapid and efficient suppression of fire on any given area.

Pre-attack planning will include: (a) Assess and map existing facilities, firelines and access route, which are judged to be important to the successful control of fires. (b) Identify and propose additional facilities, firelines, and other aids to fire control, including maintenance required. (c) An estimate of personnel, equipment, and other factors needed including other agency cooperators that will provide for safe and efficient fire control. (d) Identify natural and physical resources of special importance. (e) Construct and maintain new lines and facilities according to plan, by priority, as funds and time permit. (f) Keep pre-attack plans current to annual field checks and revisions. Equipment and Material Readiness

(a) Will acquire, account for, and maintain specialized equipment and material used in support of fire control activities, such as telecommunications and computer equipment. (b) Will maintain firefighting equipment and material in safe condition and state of readiness. (c) Will maintain an adequate inventory of equipment, material and supply.

2.3.2 Suppression

(a) The incident commander is responsible for all activities and operations on the fire. He may delegate more responsibility to assistants as organizational needs grow, but he is always the final authority and bears total responsibility. (b) Coordinate with Barangay and Volunteer Fire Brigades for immediate suppression of fire and other emergencies.

2.3.3 Demobilization

(a) Completion of all reports related to the fire. (b) Repair and maintenance of all equipment used on the fire and replacement of items rendered unserviceable or expended. (c) Debriefing and critique will be conducted as appropriate. Important items of information gained will be incorporated in the final fire report.

2. Improve Fire Prevention and Safety Education

2.1 Prevention

A major responsibility for every Branch is to keep the community informed on the need for sound fire protection. Prevention of fire is a continuous effort. Fire is an ever present danger, and, to be effective, fire prevention must be constantly practiced. Each fire prevention program should analyze the common cause of fire, identify fire hazards and risks existing in the protection area, and propose measures to reduce the threats of fire and fire damage. Branch fire prevention strategies shall include the following:

(a) Tri-Media and websites.
(b) Talks to schools, civic organizations, etc.
(c) Public notices/news releases declaring high fire danger periods.
(d) Posting of fire prevention/high fire danger warning signs and posters.

The new Fire Code of the Philippines (RA 9514) went into effect December 2008 as part of the Country continued commitment to ensure public safety. The Manila Fire District remains vigilant in its mission to protect lives and property through inspections and enforcement. The Department’s approach represents a continuum of services that includes an array of prevention, inspection, investigation and educational activities and programs. The Fire Department will continue to develop fire prevention, inspection and educational programs to make communities safer and expand its efforts to implement a risk-based inspection program.

Guided by the RA 9514, MFD is undertaking a comprehensive review of its fire prevention and fire suppression efforts. The aim is to better assess and quantify fire and hazard risk in the community in terms of the possibility of loss or injury and assign defined, quantifiable values of risk and hazards. The Department will identify and analyze risk by adopting a sound, scientific approach and, through the use of state-of-the-art technology, integrate data collection and dissemination of critical information to the field. The end result will be to modify current operating standards and improve prevention and suppression response, accordingly.

The first of these efforts is to research and modify its inspection programs, as follows: i. Establish a risk-based inspection program that will enable the MFD to focus its fire prevention resources on the buildings and hazards in neighborhoods facing the greatest risk of a serious fire, hazmat incident or other large-scale emergency. ii. Develop criteria for risk-based assessments of buildings, sites, hazards, construction and demolition and create a risk-based inspection scheduling system. iii. Develop improved workflows and business processes for risk-based inspections, data collection, data retrieval and analysis using information from various other City agencies.

The MFD provides educational seminars and on-site inspection to Building Owners and occupants too ensure compliance. The MFD will: i. Notify the owner/occupants of building or structure regarding increased enforcement through the issuance of violations and court summons for failure to comply with the law. ii. Utilize a Task Force to supplement enforcement of the Fire Code of the Philippines. iii. Ensure drills are scheduled and held at each site for participation by commercial high-rise building tenants. iv. Develop criteria for risk-based assessments of buildings, sites, hazards, construction and demolition and create a risk-based inspection scheduling system.

3. Enhance the Health and Safety of MFD Members

The Department is committed to improving the safety and well-being of all MFD emergency responders. MFD has emphasized a renewed effort to improve operational safety management and behavior through heightened hazard-risk awareness, an emphasis on injury prevention and by intensely promoting among all members the importance of safety each and every day to prevent injuries or fatalities.

The MFD through its Emergency Medical Services, is in the process of designing, piloting and implementing various projects to meet the needs of the Fire and EMS workforce.

The goal of the program is to improve the way in which safety is managed within the fire service and direct management efforts at critical safety-related behaviors, resulting in a change in members’ attitudes, values and beliefs about safety. The EMS program and its safety message aims: 3.1 To reach all BFP personnel who are required to adhere to an annual medical appointment. The program content incorporates accident data and ambulance driver profiles, identifies road hazards and reviews safety operating procedures and protocols to ensure the safety of personnel.

3.2 Further promote operational safety management and behavior by reinforcing the FDNY safety culture. 3.3 Participate in a national, multi-year academic research project to develop a world-class safety management system within MFD for members of the Fire and Emergency Medical Service. 3.4 Promote Critical Incident Stress Management through peer debriefing sessions for all emergency responders at an incident site.

4. Strengthen Management and Organizational Development

Promote organizational effectiveness and develop leadership capabilities. The MFD continues to strengthen its management capabilities by providing ongoing opportunities for additional training, the refinement of performance management methods and increased access to comprehensive analytical reports and data.

Fire Departments respond to a wide range of emergency incidents. This guideline identifies standard operating guidelines that can be employed in establishing command. The system provides for the effective management of personnel and resources providing for the safety and welfare of personnel. It also establishes guidelines for the implementation of all components of ICS for structural/fire operations. Command Guidelines are designed to:

4.1.Fix the responsibility for command on a specific individual through a standard identification system, depending on the arrival sequence of members, companies, and chief officers. 4.2. Ensure that a strong, direct, and visible command will be established from the onset of the incident.  4.3. Establish an effective incident organization defining the activities and responsibilities assigned to the Incident Commander and to other individuals operating within ICS.  4.4. Provide a system to process information to support incident management, planning, and decision making.

The Incident Commander is responsible for the completion of the tactical priorities. The tactical priorities are: a. Remove endangered occupants and treat the injured. b. Stabilize the incident and provide for life safety. c. Conserve property.

d. Provide for the safety, accountability, and welfare of personnel. This priority is ongoing throughout the incident.

ICS is used to facilitate the completion of the tactical priorities. The INCIDENT COMMANDER is the person who drives ICS towards that end. The Incident Commander is responsible for building an ICS organization that matches the organizational needs of the incident to achieve the completion of the tactical priorities for the incident. The Functions of Command define standard activities that are performed by the Incident Commander to achieve the tactical priorities. 5. Increase Diversity

Continue to advance and support initiatives in the recruitment, retention and promotional advancement of men and women of diverse backgrounds in the fire protection and emergency medical service. A top priority of the Department is to continue to expand its successful efforts to diversify its uniformed workforce through its Recruitment Unit and various recruitment programs. The percentage of young men and women of diverse backgrounds entering the Fire Academy has been increasing steadily. The Department’s latest recruitment campaign was tremendously successful. The Department will continue targeted recruitment for future Firefighter Civil Service examinations that focuses on recruiting young men and women of diverse backgrounds. Department will: (1) Continue ongoing, year-round outreach for EMS recruitment. (2) Implement a Physical Preparation Program for EMS candidates called to take the Physical Agility Test (PAT). (3) Continue to expand outreach and mentoring efforts in diverse communities throughout the City and increase the visibility of career opportunities in firefighting and EMS.


A. Continue to research, pilot and expand the use of new and innovative firefighting techniques to enhance operational tactics, response and Incident Command. B. Enhance coordination with other NGOs and Volunteer Fire Brigades for new and modernized fire fighting methods. C. Enhance and develop additional fire prevention and educational outreach programs to make communities safer. D. Implement a risk-based priority inspection scheduling system and wireless handheld tools to automate field inspections. E. Implement the review and approval of Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) for commercial high-rise buildings. The MFD must establish an EAP Unit within the Bureau of Fire Prevention to review and approve plans submitted by commercial building owners in compliance with RA 9514. F. Continue to improve on-scene safety for Fire/EMS responders by developing additional scene safety initiatives, including conducting an Fire/EMS hazard assessment Department-wide survey and establishing a Hazard Assessment Committee.


Calls to fire departments can come in from many avenues. The four major response types include: fire incident calls, EMS calls, HazMat calls, and other calls such as service calls, or false alarms. Individuals and alarm monitoring services are the major sources for calls to fire departments. The fire department has no direct involvement in how quickly a fire is discovered once it starts and how promptly the fire is reported once it has been discovered. In the best case scenario, someone notices a fire when it starts and reports the fire immediately after evacuating, but this does not always happen. Fire departments may arrive to several different scenarios at a fire scene. Fire scene scenarios include: fire extinguished before arrival of firefighters, fire contained to the room of origin before or after arrival of firefighters, or fire spread beyond room of origin before or after arrival of firefighters. In some scenarios, a person may need to be rescued from a building or fire scene.

There may also be fatalities or injured victims on scene who require medical aid. The purpose of this to identify the top priorities of the Department, describe significant strategic management initiatives and future actions. This Policy is seeks to provide the public, Department and its members with a clear framework for the future to work together with its many partners to ensure the delivery of, fire protection and other emergency care, investigation, inspection and preventive and educational services that the citizens and visitors to People have a right to expect.

The initiatives contained in this Policy will require consultation with and support from other local government units, as well as the private sector and the City’s relevant labor organizations. In addition to the new objectives outlined, the MFD will continue to monitor the progress and completion of those key objectives The MFD is dedicated to its mission and core values and to serve and protect the City of Manila. This Policy represents the commitment to respond to emergencies and simultaneously provides an opportunity to evaluate its core services and set new standards as an organization to meet its future challenges.


National Fire Protection Association
Fire Code of the Philippines, RA 9514
Ahrens, M., Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires, NFPA Division of Fire Analysis and Research, July 2009. Ammons, D., Municipal Benchmarks: Assessing Local Performance and Establishing Community Standards, Sage Publications, Second Edition, 2001. Chaiken, W., Ignall, E., Fire Department Deployment Analysis: A Public Policy Analysis Case Stud, The Rand Fire Project, A Rand Corporation Research Study, 1979. Cline, D., Organizational Benchmarking and Performance Evaluation, NFPA Fire Protection Handbook, 20th edition, Volume II, Chapter 12.2, 2008. Hall, J.R. Jr., Flynn, J., Grant, C. Measuring Code Compliance Effectiveness for Fire-Related Portions of Codes, the National Fire Protection Association and Fire Protection Research Foundation, 2008.

Updated: Mar 22, 2023
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Aggressive Fire Suppression in Early 20th Century Philippines. (2016, Dec 14). Retrieved from

Aggressive Fire Suppression in Early 20th Century Philippines essay
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