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Tragic NCCC mall fire: What were the loopholes?

  • Authorities say the exit paths of mall were not smoke and heat-proof

  • No connection between alarm system at SSI and mall’s

  • No functioning sprinkler

A massive fire guts the NCCC Mall of Davao on December 23, 2017. The fire was put out after 32 hours. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/ davaotoday.com)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The 14 year-old local shopping center NCCC Mall was gutted by a massive fire two days before Christmas on December 23, 2017.

Authorities found that there was no functioning sprinkler system at the third floor of the building, where the fire started.

“There was no water, not even a sprinkler head. Without a sprinkler head, the sprinkler system will not function,” Superintendent Jerry Candido, who speaks for the Interagency Anti-Arson Task Force, said during a telephone interview with reporters on Tuesday, January 2.

Meanwhile, the fourth floor of the mall that was leased to business process outsourcing company Survey Sampling International (SSI) Davao had its sprinkler system intact.

But, Candido said they found out that the system was outside the structure of the SSI.

What we know know so far:

  • The fire started in a short circuit at the ceiling portion of the alley between the fabric and furniture sections at the third level of the mall.
  • The fire blazed for 32 hours.
  • 38 workers, including 37 call center employees, died after they were trapped at the fourth level where a business process outsourcing company was located.
  • The building, Candido said, failed to comply with the requirement of an automatic fire suppression system.
  • The task force has recommended the relief of fire officials effective December 31, 2017. Those who were relieved were City Fire Marshal Honey Fritz Alagano, Inspector Renero Jimenez, Senior Fire Officer 1 (SFO1) Leo Lauzon, FO2 Joel Quizmundo and SFO1 Roger Dumag.
  • The task force will resume its meeting on January 4 to continue with the probe.

Manual, not automatic

Every floor had a control valve for its sprinkler system, but it was turned off, Candido said, as the third floor was undergoing repair when the fire incident happened.

Meanwhile, the control valve at the fourth level had long been turned off as SSI was occupying the said floor.

“If you fiddle with the floor control valve, the alarm will sound automatically. That is why they overrode it. The mall’s alarm system was not automatic anymore because the floor control valves were closed,” he said.

“So, although the mall had an alarm system, it was manual. You must pull down the alarm switch before you can sound the alarm,” he stressed.

However, since there was no connection between the alarm system at the fourth level and the mall’s alarm system, the fire alarm was not heard at the workplace where victims of the fire were found dead.

“That is really a violation,” said Candido.

The exits of the building were also found to be not smoke and heat-proof. Investigators saw exits have several “openings” which Candido said would allow smoke and heat to pass through easily.

“The law requires that fire exits are protected. How can you use the exits if the smoke and heat got in first before the person?” he said.

Clearly, he added, the fire exits were cut off by the heat and smoke, which some of the fire survivors reported they were unable to use during the incident.(davaotoday.com)

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