Fire Hits Gotesco Mall Anew

MANILA, Philippines - Fire broke out anew at the Ever Gotesco Grand Central Mall in Caloocan City last Wednesday night, a day after authorities declared it had been put out.

Bureau of Fire Protection - National Capital Region (NCR) Officer Louie Abinales said a fire broke out at the 5th floor of the fire-ravaged mall at around 8:55 p.m. with thick smoke billowing.

The billowing smoke caused nearby residents to panic in fear that another major fire would break out.

Authorities said the fire was eventually put out at 9:37 p.m. but firemen have been on placed on standby in the area in case another fire erupts.

The investigation in the cause of the fire which originally broke out last Friday and put out days later is now being handled by an inter-agency task force.

The fire-ravaged Gotesco building located at Rizal Avenue Extension is now guarded by the mall's security guard preventing persons, even renters, from entering the premises.

The fire started at 10:36 p.m. of March 16 and lasted until March 20. Firefighters alleged had difficulties in containing the fire due to alleged lack of equipment and the presence of highly combustible materials inside the mall, prompting the Department of Interior and Local Government to order an investigation.

DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo order the relief of Caloocan Fire Marshal Oscar de Asis for being allegedly drunk when the fire broke out, and replaced him with Senior Superintendent Jeremy Diaz.

Sources said that De Asis, who replaced Diaz as fire chief last year, is reportedly retiring from the service this year.

With the inter-agency task force handling the incident, the Caloocan fire department, now under the Diaz, expressed readiness in cooperating with the task force if needed, an arson investigator said.