NCCC Mall safety approval done ‘before my time,’ says sacked fire chief
DAVAO CITY — One of the city fire officials sacked in the wake of the fire at NCCC Mall that killed 38 people did not question the order relieving her of her duty but said she was not among those who approved the mall’s fire safety compliance certificate as she assumed office only after the certificate had been given.
Supt. Honey Fritz Alagano, city fire marshal, said she heeded an order to relieve her of her duty but should not be tagged as among those who approved the fire safety certificate of NCCC.
The certificate, Alagano said in a phone interview, was approved “before my time.” She said she assumed office only on Oct. 13.
The relief of Alagano and four other city fire officials had been recommended by a task force investigating the fire, the city’s worst in many years.
Signs of lapses
Telltale signs of lapses emerged in the investigation but liability has yet to be established, according to Senior Supt. Jerry Candido, member of the investigating task force.
In a televised interview, Candido said initial findings showed the gate valve that controlled the supply of water to NCCC Mall’s third and fourth floors had been turned off. The floors housed a furniture store and offices of Survey Sampling International (SSI), which employed 37 of the 38 fatalities.
Candido added that investigators also found that SSI, a Connecticut-based firm, had its own fire alarm system that was not connected to the mall’s.
Alagano said reports of inspection done prior to the fire showed that the mall had been fire safety compliant.
Worked in practice
She said the mall’s alarm and sprinkler systems were working during fire drills for NCCC Mall employees.
Thea Padua, NCCC Mall spokesperson, said the last fire drill was conducted in July.
Candido said investigators were looking at the fire safety compliance reports, too.
NCCC Mall renewed its license in April 2017 and SSI was last inspected in September.
The mall’s fire safety compliance certificate was recommended for approval by Fire Officer 2 Joel Quizmondo while that of SSI was endorsed for approval by Senior Fire Officer 1 Leo Lauzon. Quizmondo and Lauzon were also relieved of their duties.
Candido said investigators also found that SSI had only one fire exit, which became inaccessible during the fire because of thick smoke engulfing the entire fourth floor at the time.
The NCCC Mall fire loomed large even as another fire, in Agdao District during New Year revelry, destroyed at least 50 houses. No casualty was reported, though. —ALLAN NAWAL