Heads will roll in QC fire that killed 15 people

(File Photo | by Yummie Dingding)
(File Photo | by Yummie Dingding)

Heads will surely roll as an investigation has been ordered by Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte over the fire that killed 15 people at a house along Kenny Drive Street inside Pleasant View Subdivision in Barangay Tandang Sora, Thursday dawn.

Sources at the barangay told the Daily Tribune that the house owners have applied for a barangay clearance for the said house to be used as an RTW (Ready To Wear) retail shop just last 13 August 2023.

However, the house owners Michael Cavilte, 44; his wife Maria Micaela Barbin, 23; and their daughter Erica Scarlet were among the fatalities whose bodies were recovered from the site of the blaze after the almost three-hour fire.

At the local fire department, the same address which was described as residential, was issued with a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate in 2022 for a 15 square-meter space that served as an "office area" employing three workers.

But police reports noted that the other 12 victims who died in the blaze were described either as helpers or workers.

The property, about 200 square-meters, was listed as a two-story residential unit, but arson probers retrieved some of the victims' bodies beyond recognition, at another structure at the back of the said old two-story house. It was an unfinished concrete three-story structure with a roof deck. A check by the Daily Tribune revealed that a locational clearance was denied for that building because of a zoning violation, rendering the structure to fail to get a building permit but was already erected.

Arson investigators ruled that the house was used as a warehouse, workshop for a t-shirt printing business, and quarters for the workers, as residents noted that first, they knew their neighbors were into making "face masks" and turned into t-shirt printing later in time for the country's hosting of FIBA World Cup 2023.

Probers are not ruling out that the fire was triggered by faulty electrical wiring or overheating of the electric lamination machine used in t-shirt printing. The victims were sleeping when the fire broke out, trapping them from suffocation.

"If it was inspected yearly, they could discover the space behind that office was used as garment shop," one of the Barangay officials who responded to the scene but wished not to be named said.

Due to the declaration that Cavilte has only an office area to maintain, inspection was never carried the local Fire department, while records at their NCR office noted that they have submitted a report of 100 percent inspection.

Quezon City Fire Marshal Aristotle Bañaga still could not be reached for comment.

For her part, Belmonte said investigators should determine whether there were any lapses committed by local government officials or by people running the business.

She also immediately sent her sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims as she ordered a thorough investigation of whether or not the establishment adhered to the requirements of the Department of Building Official (DBO), Business Permit and Licensing Department (BPLD) or violated the National Building Code, Fire Code of the Philippines, zoning ordinance, business permit, occupancy, and permit.

Daily Tribune