Difficult operation

BFP sacks city fire marshal, 4 others following NCCC mall fire
AUTHORITIES are finding it hard to locate the remaining missing person in the deadly fire that hit New City Commercial Center (NCCC) Mall last Dec. 23.

This developed as five officials of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), including the city fire marshal, were sacked Sunday from their post following the incident that killed at least 37 persons, mostly call center agents.

Sr. Supt. Jerry Candido, the spokesperson of the Anti-Arson Task Force, said they have already combed the third and fourth floors of the four-level mall for at least three times but they could not find any traces of the missing person, believed to be Alexandra Moreno, a supervisor of the American-owned Survey Sampling International (SSI).

“We really can’t find her,” Candido said. “We have exerted all our efforts.”

Candido said they are seeking clearance to search the second floor.

He said they expect that the body of Moreno was already charred so members of the search team should be extra careful to avoid stepping on it.

Candido said the search and retrieval operation is very dangerous due to the condition of the mall.

“(Operatives) crawl and use rappel in the operation,” he said. “They are very careful because the building might fall down anytime.”

The operation was also halted on New Year’s Day as operatives responded to a fire incident that hit Agdao area. The search, however, continued yesterday.

Candido said they are seeking cooperation from the SSI management to ask some of their surviving personnel who could tell the exact location of Moreno before or during the fire.

Reports said the asthmatic Moreno reportedly led some co-workers to safety during the fire.

Starting Thursday, the task force spokesman said they can start evaluating thoroughly the evidence they gathered from the fire scene.

He said they have already submitted the evidence to the arson laboratory in the national headquarters of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Quezon City, Metro Manila.

“We are waiting for the result of the arson laboratory test to prove that there was an electrical short circuit happened in the ceiling of the alley of the fabrics and furniture section in the 3rd floor,” he said.

He said the physical evidence was corroborated by the testimonies of the different witnesses.

“Witnesses are pointing to the ceiling portion,” Candido said.

Relieved

The BFP has relieved the city fire marshal and four others following the incident.

Relieved from their post effected Sunday were City Fire Marshal Honey Fritz Alagano, Insp. Renero Jimenez, Senior FO1 Leo Lauzon, FO2 Joel Quizmundo and Senior FO1 Roger Dumag.

Candido said Alagano was then the city fire department chief while Jimenez was then the chief of the fire station that has jurisdiction over the mall at the corner of MacArthur Highway in Barangay Matina Crossing and Don Julian Rodriguez Avenue in Barangay Ma-a, both in Talomo District.

Lauzon was then the fire inspector for SSI, which lost 37 workers in the 32-hour fire, while Quizmundo signed and recommended the approval of NCCC Mall’s fire safety compliance certificate.

Dumag was then the city fire department’s safety enforcement chief.

The relief order came after the Anti-Arson Task Force recommended for the sacking of key officials following the fire.

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