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Caloocan down to 1 working firetruck

MANILA, Philippines - After battling the Ever Gotesco Grand Central Mall fire for nearly four days, Caloocan City’s firefighters have only one operational firetruck, with five marked for serious repairs, the city’s top fire officials said yesterday.

Senior Fire Officer 4 Randy Resurreccion, arson intelligence and investigation chief, said the firetrucks are over 30 years old and only one, based in Kaybiga, remains operational.

“If a big fire breaks out today, God forbid, we do not know what will happen,” said firefighters milling around at the central fire station on Samson Road.

Resurreccion said that even if repairs are rushed, it may take several days or weeks for the firetrucks to work efficiently.

“These firetrucks remind us of motels. They only work short-time,” a fire station commander, who declined to be named, said. The official said at the height of the Gotesco blaze, the firetrucks were capable of running efficiently for two hours.

“One by one the fire trucks broke down. It was good many fire volunteers took up the slack,” the firefighters said.

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Meanwhile, firefighters scrambled back to the mall at around 8:28 p.m. Wednesday after a fire reignited at the back of the building. “That’s a normal occurrence in big fires. There are still stockpiles of unburned materials inside the building. But it was immediately put out,” SFO2 Ruel Dacanay said.

The fire was put out at around 10:37 p.m. The Gotesco fire started at around 10:45 p.m. Friday and was put out at around 7 a.m. Tuesday. Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo gave an inter-agency arson task force 45 days to determine what caused the fire and why it lasted more than one day.

The task force, under Senior Superintendent Fennimore Jaudian, said the building is 80 to 90 percent damaged by the fire, which lasted over 80 hours.

Confusion

Meanwhile, newly installed Caloocan fire marshal Superintendent Roel Jeremy Diaz has reportedly called a meeting with Camanava fire station chiefs to discuss unspecified “urgent matters,” sources said.

Senior Inspector Stephen Requina, city fire safety enforcement unit chief, said the city’s Bureau of Fire Protection office has yet to receive Robredo’s official confirmation of the national BFP’s order replacing Superintendent Oscar de Asis with Diaz. He said De Asis was still issuing orders to his men despite a “verbal order” by Robredo replacing him.

Firefighters have been complaining of work-related ailments because they lack the proper equipment. They said one reason why it took some time to enter the mall at the height of the fire was that they did not have breathing devices and masks. They said appeals for new firetrucks, protective gear and support equipment and supplies continue to fall on deaf ears. – With Pete Laude, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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