The fire that claimed two young lives and damaged more than P2 million worth of properties last week has created a permanent scar among us and will be a painful reminder especially for the families who lost their loved ones. The voice of the poor young lady crying for help as the fire eventually silenced her helpless voice and whose remains were scattered by the bursting fire around her room will forever resonate in the ears of those who attempted to help but could not do so. So is the young lad who was sleeping when the angry fire devoured his room and left him nowhere to move and run. It will not be easy for those whose properties were turned into ashes to regain what they used to have.

Now the thorough investigation of the fire department begins. Though some skeptics are doubting their capabilities. Had it not for the relentless pushing and shouting of the civilians around the fire  scene for them to go back to the upper level of the building to check, the bodies of the victim would not have been found. We can’t blame them entirely. They also need to ensure the safety of the firemen.

What caused the fire? And how did it start? These are but a few of the basic questions yet too complicated to answer as the investigation progresses. We just have to wait as the process is slow. To date, the fire department has not yet made a conclusive report as to what caused the fire that broke at the SAAD office of the Department of Agriculture 6 in Parola, Iloilo City. So it is expected that as everyone starts to heal from this fiery fire in Brgy. San Nicolas, La Paz, the investigation report may not still yield a conclusive result especially so that lives were lost.

However, we can at least start calling for accountability. Who will be responsible for the death of the two victims? While incidents like these could happen and nobody wants it to happen, prevention is still key. La Paz district being Iloilo City’s university belt is host to several apartments and boarding houses. Days after the tragic fire, the city government ordered the closure of at least 40 boarding houses and more are expected to be issued closure orders in the coming days. Why? These accommodation establishments are operating without business permits. Meaning, they were not inspected if they comply with basic safety measures like having a fire exit or even emergency fire extinguishers. It is expected then that the situation of rooms and restrooms of these boarding houses are in a dire situation.

Who is responsible for the monitoring and compliance of these mentioned requirements? Iloilo City has a Boarding House Commission. Who is the lousy leader or chairman of the commission? How come they failed to monitor the operation of these bogus accommodation establishments? The Boarding House Commission and for command responsibility the city mayor, Jerry Treñas, must be made accountable for the incident especially for the death of the two fire victims.

Even the Bureau of Fire Protection must be made to answer. While it is true that they only inspect establishments that have applied for business permits, they too must conduct routine inspections of areas where boarding houses operate in the name of due diligence. It is only through these actions of the government that operators and bogus operators of boarding houses would reconsider ensuring safety and welfare of their boarders as a priority.

Years back, a fire also gutted several boarding houses in Brgy. Railway, La Paz. Several bogus boarding houses were also ordered closed. Yet, today, its as if nothing happened and we are back on issuing closure orders.

These are indicative of political accommodations or simply kapabayaan. We can’t be a modernized city in 2028 if our measurement of progress is based on the skyscrapers and new businesses. We need to also prioritize the welfare and well being of those who belong to the lower end and inferior sectors like these boarding and lodging houses.

Meantime, who will accept accountability over the Brgy. San Nicolas, La Paz fire?