22 February 2016

About the Phoenix Petro-terminal Fire in Calaca; and the Power of Social Media

Image captured from a public video posted by Jonel Alcaraz on Facebook.

Well there you are, thank God! TV Patrol Regional reported earlier today that the monstrous fire that broke out at the Phoenix Petro-terminal in Calaca here in the Province of Batangas has been brought under control.

The LPG is being allowed to burn itself out, the report said; but the threat to the surrounding community has been greatly reduced.

The fire, apparently, broke out at an LPG storage facility about half past three in the afternoon last Saturday. It figures, because the first fire engine that went racing past where I live was after four.

And they just kept coming and coming, at one time in a convoy of four or five trucks. What is it about the siren of fire engines that really creeps me out?

I don’t even bother to get up and look out the window at the sound of a police car’s or an ambulance’s siren when they approach anymore. But a fire engine’s siren never fails to grab my attention.

I counted more than 20 last Saturday, the last one nearing midnight as I prepared to go to sleep. I am pretty certain that was the most that passed in front of the house in a day in my entire lifetime.

Of course I was wary; but because power had not been cut off, I figured the fire had to be reasonably far. As always, social media was convenient for satisfying one’s curiosity.

At 6:44 in the evening, I posted an item on Facebook to explore if anybody could enlighten me. In 13 minutes, one of my former players who is managing the Taal Bayview Bistro along the diversion road outside of Lemery told me that the fire was in Calaca.

This is a small municipality of 70,000 citizens (2010 est.) that is between Lemery and Balayan.

Before long, one of my former students posted that he heard that the fire was at the Calaca power plant. This alarmed me because if it was true, then it could impact the Luzon grid and I was wary about outages.

So, I turned to Facebook’s search function and in moments was watching a video of the ongoing fire at the Phoenix Petro-terminal facility taken earlier in the afternoon. For starters, I did not even know the facility existed. Still, if was strangely comforting that it was not the power plant ablaze.

Exactly how big the fire had become, I soon had a fairly good idea when this former player of mine posted a picture of it taken from where he was in Taal. From the Taal Bayview Bistro in Taal to the Phoenix facility in Calaca is 17 kilometres as the crow flies.

And yet the fire was visible. Go figure!

Picture of the blaze taken by Joseph Razon from Taal Bayview Bistro.

Another former student commented that chemical retardants were needed to put out the fire rather than water. I politely “Liked” his post and moved on. That was my polite way of saying I don’t know an awful lot about these things.

Hey, I’m the former History teacher!

He was right, though; and TV Patrol’s report said as much. The fire engines had descended upon Calaca like ants on spilt sugar. But apparently only a handful which had the chemical foam was allowed near the fire.

Or so the report said.

As it turned out from various sources, the fire engines were scrambled from all over the CALABARZON to Calaca by what is known as a general alarm. As I understood it, the general alarm requires fire departments elsewhere in the region to render assistance.

A former colleague who lives in Cuenca said that a fire engine was spotted with Alabang markings. If this was true, then the fire alarm had gone beyond the region.

I was just curious why this fire engine and others from Cavite did not go via Tagaytay and the shortcut up the mountain exiting Lemery. Before long, somebody said that the road has been closed because of a landslide.

This explained why so many fire engines were passing in front of my house.

The exit of the Tagaytay-Lemery Road, which I learned was closed because of landslides.

Imagine that! Everything that I needed to know related to Saturday’s emergency, I got from Facebook or Twitter.

Social media really rocks! Traditional media was always lagging behind; and in fact one online article presented as news posts by made by netizens about the fire on social media.

Before social media, I probably would have had to wait until at least the next day to find out what was going on!

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