Published: 2:16 p.m., Dec. 31, 2017 | Updated: 9:52 p.m., Dec. 31, 2017
DAVAO CITY — Five city fire officials were relieved of duty in the wake of the city’s worst fire in years that killed 38 people, 37 of them call center agents.
The Southern Mindanao office of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) issued the relief order effective on Sunday for City Fire Marshal Honey Fritz Alagano, Insp. Renero Jimenez, Senior FO1 Leo Lauzon, FO2 Joel Quizmundo and Senior FO1 Roger Dumag.
Alagano had overall supervision of the city fire department while Jimenez was chief of the fire station that had jurisdiction over the New City Commercial Center (NCCC) Mall on Don Julian Rodriguez Avenue in the village of Ma-a.
Lauzon was fire inspector for Survey Sampling International (SSI), which lost 37 workers in the 32-hour fire, while Quizmundo had signed and recommended the approval of NCCC Mall’s fire safety compliance certificate.
Dumag was the city fire department’s safety enforcement chief.
“I personally signed the relief order and it was issued to make way for the investigation,” said Senior Supt. Wilberto Rico Neil Kwan Tiu, BFP regional director.
The relief order came after a task force formed to investigate the deadly fire recommended the sacking of key BFP officials in the city.
It also came amid reports that NCCC Mall’s sprinkler and alarm system failed although it passed inspection made by the city fire department.
Some survivors also claimed the mall lacked exits, one of the reasons for the SSI employees’ deaths, but a mall spokesperson, Thea Padua, denied this.
Mayor Sara Duterte had vouched for the NCCC Mall, saying its compliance with safety requirements was the main reason it had been issued a business permit.
Kwan Tiu said there was little reason to doubt that NCCC was safety compliant because the mall owner, Lim Tian Siu Trading Inc., was among the founders of the Davao City Volunteer Fire Brigade.
A fire engine owned by the NCCC was stationed in the mall, he said.
Alagano had said the city fire department regularly conducted fire drills with NCCC Mall employees. Padua said the last was held in July.
Assistant Interior Secretary Nestor Quinsay Jr. said investigators were collecting every piece of evidence that could shed light on the fire. /jpv /pdi