Fire in Balic-balic, Sampaloc.
Tragedy struck Balic-balic, Sampaloc the afternoon of March 12, 2007 when two people died in a fire that broke out in their two story house located in T. Anzures. Mary Grace Camarote, age 26, went back inside their burning house to save her 80 year old grandmother, Genoveva Pamintuan, but in the end, both of them died. Five other houses were burned at an estimated cost of P1 million pesos. The timely arrival of firemen helped in preventing the spread of the fire any further.
Joseph Earle Stevens, in his book, Yesterdays in the Philippines (1898), described a fire that occurred in Manila on April 27, which left about five or six hundred houses up in smoke mainly because many were made of nipa thatch. He continues his description of the fire by stating that “hundreds of families moved out into the wet rice-fields, with all their chattels, and there were many curious looking groups. In saving various articles of furniture and other valuables, the fighting cock as usual, was considered the most important, and it was interesting to watch the natives trudging along with scared faces, holding a roosted by the legs in one hand and a baby or two in the other. Pigs, chickens, and dogs seemed to come next in value, and after them ice-chests and images of the Virgin Mary.” Furthermore, according to Stevens, rumors say the dealers in thatch are responsible for many of the big fires that happens in Manila especially when times are bad and prices are low for thatch.
The fire department of the city of Manila during the American colonial period was organized on August 7, 1901 with F.R. Dodge as chief. However, upon his resignation, a few monts later, Mr. Hugh Bonner from New York City, was appointed on December 28, 1901 as the fire chief. Mr. Bonner supervised around 80 men organizaed under four engine companies located in Santa Cruz (2 stations, one known as the Tanduay fire station),Paco (in front of the Paco cemetery), Manila (in the Ayuntamiento building in Intramuros).
Sampaloc did not have her own fire station although in the Fire Department Report for Manila, dated July 19, 1905, Luis H. Dingman, chief of the fire department, recommended that a fire station be built for Sampaloc possibly near Sampaloc rotonda. Firetrucks from Sta. Cruz were responsible for both Sta. Cruz and Sampaloc and the distance travelled from Sta. Cruz to Sampaloc was considerable.
Photo: Fire Department Engines drawn by horses. In 1904, Manila’s fire dept. had 411 American horses and 85 native horses requiring employment of one full-time mechanic (horseshoer).