NEGLIGENCE caused in the blaze at a restaurant in the multi-deck carpark last April 23, the Manila Fire Department has found.

Chief Arson Investigator F02 Bernardo Carta said stocked oil at the Sticks and Bowls restaurant has the cause of fire that burned down P20, 000 worth of property. Initially, the fire department blamed an overheated exhaust duct for the incident.

However, Carta declined to give a copy of the incident’s full report to the Varsitarian, saying there was an “agreement” between him and Selegna Holdings Corp., carpark deck operator.

“There was negligence, but to whose responsibility I cannot say. It is between us and the company,” Carta said in a phone interview, without elaborating.

The findings were shared by the UST security office, which is part of the UST crisis management committee that ordered a probe of the incident.

“Oil must have been stocked for a long period of time, and created a reaction resulting in combustion,” security office chief Joseph Badinas said in an interview.

But the Facilities Management Office (FMO), another member of the crisis management team, upheld to the initial findings of the fire department.

FMO engineer Oliver Gagarin, who was at the vicinity of Sticks and Bowls when fire broke out, said he found an exhaust duct lying on the ground outside the restaurant after the incident.

“It is hard to reconcile the findings of FMO and the arson investigator. Most likely I’ll go for our own finding because we were there before the fire started,” said FMO Director Fr. Roberto Pinto, O.P.

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The exhaust duct absorbs smoke from food establishments and releases it outside. Pinto said something might have hit the exhaust duct causing the smoke to concentrate inside Sticks and Bowls.

“In our findings it seems that there is no fire. But since the fire investigator is the third party, we take their report,” he added.

The Varsitarian tried to get a comment from the carpark management, but they declined.

FMO fire and safety engineer Antonio Espejo said the carpark deck had complied with the building requirements set by the National Building Code of the Philippines.

The whole building is made of reinforced concrete or a combination of concrete and reinforcing steel bars. The fourth floor of the deck, where the AMV-College of Accountancy is located, has a sprinkler system, 54 fire extinguishers, four fire hose cabinets, four fire exits, and one main enclosed staircase with emergency lights and visible fire escape plans.

“The AMV building should have had the [Fire Safety Inspection] certificate by now, but inspectors were not able to continue inspecting because they were called on duty,” Espejo added. Kalaine Nikka Kay C. Grafil

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