Firemen return to Caloocan Gotesco mall to put out new blaze

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Firefighters from Caloocan and the nearby cities of Malabon and Valenzuela rushed back to the Ever Gotesco Grand Central Mall on Rizal Avenue on Wednesday night after another blaze broke out inside the establishment.

This time, however, it took them just over two hours to put out the fire, which started at 8:28 p.m. on the mall’s fifth floor.

The blaze that began at 10:45 p.m. on Friday in one of Metro Manila’s oldest malls raged for more than 82 hours before it was put out at 7 a.m. on Tuesday.

Inspector Jyner Rick Cariño, chief of the city fire department’s Bagong Barrio fire station who were among those who rushed to the scene on Wednesday night, said that they could have done their work in less time except that the new fire broke out beneath some floorboards that they had to pry open first.

“We had to use shovels before we could train our hoses on the fire,” he explained.

According to Cariño, the “rekindled fire” was caused by the heat inside the burnt building, which resulted in some embers that had not been doused with water to burst into flames.

Cariño also warned that there was a possibility that another blaze could break out as long as the building had not been cleared of embers.

Several hours earlier, several mall tenants were allowed to enter the establishment to inspect their goods.

They received permission from the Interagency Task Force—the team assigned to conduct a probe of the fire—although several vendors were denied entry for safety reasons because the parts of the building that they wanted to check had been declared unsafe, according to Insp. Oscar Romero, a member of the task group.

Meanwhile, a mall security supervisor denied allegations that he and the other guards did not provide assistance to responding firemen immediately after the blaze broke out on Friday night.

Julius Apostadero said in a statement he submitted to investigator Fire Officer 3 Benedicto Tudla—who was in charge of the case before it was turned over to the task force—that he had ordered his subordinates to assist the firemen. He added that he also directed them to open the mall’s doors to allow the firefighters to enter the establishment.

However, Apostadero said that the firemen did not enter right away because of the thick smoke inside the building.

After putting on their breathing equipment, the firemen then went into the building in pairs, he added.

He also said that he directed the firefighters to the stall where the blaze broke out, contrary to earlier reports.

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