Fire in 4 Binondo buildings ‘suspicious,’ says Manila arson chief
MANILA, Philippines – The fire that hit 4 buildings in Binondo, Manila – including the Land Management Bureau (LMB) and the Juan Luna building that houses the National Archives of the Philippines (NAP) – invite suspicions of arson, a fire official said Monday afternoon, May 28.
Chief Senior Inspector Reden Alumno, arson chief of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Manila, said what made the fire “suspicious” was it started past midnight, after the weekend, and with 4 guards on duty.
“Arsonists usually operate during these hours,” Alumno said.
The fire, which started at 12:36 am on Monday at the Land Management Bureau building, spread to the 150 Plaza Cervantes building, the Moraga Mansion, and lastly to the Juan Luna building, which houses the NAP.
In the on-site spot report on the fire incident, the status of the fire was declared Task Force Alpha at 1:13 am, Task Force Bravo at 1:30 am, and Task Force Charlie at 9 am.
Chief Inspector Crossib Cante of BFP-Manila explained that these alarm statuses indicate the number of firetrucks on the scene. Task Force Charlie equates to 36 firetrucks, although volunteer trucks arrived to help put out the fire.
BFP officials explained that the heat of the fire from the LMB spread quickly to the surrounding buildings because there was little space between the 4 structures.
Firefighters attempted to put out the fire for more than 12 hours, until it was declared under control at e3:43 p.m. on Monday.
Cante told Rappler that firefighters struggled to put out the fire because not all of them had breathing equipment, and the fire unexpectedly spread too quickly.
Alumno said the guards on duty allegedly heard a sound from the 7th floor of the LMB building, which was used for events or flag raising ceremonies.
Upon checking the source of the unfamiliar sound just before midnight, the guards supposedly found the fire had already started.
The unusual speed by which the fire spread from the 7th floor going down was also to be investigated, as Alumno said this was “impossible.”
“If the building was made of purely concrete materials, it (fire) was not supposed to spread down. But if there is wood, it’s possible,” Alumno said.
Tons of land titles and some P100 million worth of equipment at the LMB were destroyed. Offices of accounting and law firms and insurance agencies in the two other buildings also lost documents to the fire.
Meanwhile, Jocelyn Reyes, NAP's OIC deputy executive director, said all important documents and computers in their office were saved, and that no archival documents were stored in the Juan Luna building.
Authorities have yet to come up with an estimate of the damage.
No one was badly hurt from the fire, except for two firefighters who suffered hand lacerations, and one firefighter who had difficulty in breathing.
As of posting, firefighters are still working to settle the smoke out on the scene, but a "fire out" was expected to be declared Monday night. – Rappler.com