March 18, 2012
Caloocan City Mayor Enrico “Recom” Echiverri has ordered the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to conduct an investigation on the 24-hour blaze at Ever Gotesco Grand Central that began on Friday night.
Echiverri wants the BFP to determine if there was foul play in the Gotesco Grand Central fire, calling it “strange” that it required a full day to completely put the flames out.
“A thorough investigation is needed here, given the fact that the firefighters needed a extensive amount of time to subdue the blaze,” Echiverri said.
The mayor said the Caloocan City Government maintains interest in the mall because its management still owes taxes to the city.
He casted suspicions on the “persistence” of the blaze at Grand Central, considering that nearly all firefighting units in Metro Manila had responded to the area.
Echiverri specifically wants the angle of arson probed, since the building owners can collect money through its insurance plan and at the same time evade the payment of the outstanding taxes.
The mayor said he also wants the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to look into the possibility that the fire was indeed staged so that Grand Central could escape its obligation.
The firefighters also bared that mall’s security guards initially prevented them from entering the burning mall, thus adding to their difficulties in containing the fire.
Fire suddenly broke out at 10:30 p.m. Friday within the mall located along Rizal Avenue Extension. So huge was the flames that even the operations of Light Rail Transit (LRT) line 1 were affected.
As a precaution, even residents living around Grand Central were quickly evacuated. This took place even as members of the Department of Public Safety and Public Management (DPSTM) took control of the traffic situation.
Mayor Echiverri also deployed police officers and medics to the site in order to provide additional assistance.
The local government has long sought for the payment of the outstanding taxes owed to it by Grand Central, but the mall’s management has continued to evade its responsibility.
The same mall was also gutted by fire in 1991, wherein total damages to property reached P100 million.
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