The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) ruled that the cause of fire that gutted the historic Manila Central Post Office Building in Liwasang Bonifacio is purely accidental in nature and declared that the investigation is considered closed and solved.
The Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost) already got hold of the fire clearance certificate issued by the BFP saying that the fire originated at the southern part of the basement, more particularly at the Mega Manila Storage Room (GSS) where office supplies, thinners, paint cans where piled in close proximity to the car batteries stored inside the room.
The BFP report stated that the combustibility of the load contents and its enclosed set-up greatly influence heat build-up that explains the explosion and subsequent conflagration. This led to the full development of fire and subsequent damage of the nearby structures.
On the determined cause of fire, it has been established based on the pieces of evidence gathered, that the statement of the witness and the result of the laboratory examinations, that the cause of fire is attributed to sudden self-discharge of car battery (sulfation) resulting to thermal run-away, causing sudden build-up of heat and pressure and eventually cause the explosion.
Moreover, the presence of the internal short circuit, the hydrogen and the volatile gases contained in the battery and the presence of oxygen as the oxidizing agent initiated the ignition. The contributory factors and the combustibility of materials fueled and sustained the ignition sequence.
Arson investigators from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) immediately conducted their investigation on the fire that damaged the 97-year-old structure, which is regarded as National Historical Landmark.
“We welcomed the result of the investigation from the BFP to know exactly what really happened. We will now move on and concentrate primarily on the recovery and rehabilitation of the iconic building”, said Postmaster General Luis Carlos.
Built in 1926, the historic Manila Central Post Office was designed by Filipino architects Juan Arellano and Tomas Mapua. It was damaged during World War II, during the Battle of Manila and was restored in 1946, right after the war.
Manila Congressman Joel R. Chua cautioned the Bureau of Fire Protection and Philpost on the ‘accidental’ conclusion on the cause of the fire that razed the Manila Central Post Office because “there remains the matter of what was the motor vehicle battery doing there in the first place because that battery was a fire hazard.”
“Fire safety and workplace safety laws and regulations may have been violated because of the mere presence of that motor vehicle battery in a location surrounded by easily combustible materials,” Rep. Chua said.
“The BFP incident report does not necessarily have to be the last word on the immediate, contributory, and aggravating causes of the MCPO heritage site fire disaster. The GSIS insurance investigation report and the building security logs should be looked into. The National Historical Commission may also have to intervene,” Chua added.
Chua also said, “At the very least, there may have been carelessness or worse, negligence ranging up to gross negligence of personnel and officials responsible for building safety, security, and administration.”
“Was the battery used as a paperweight? Was the battery a power source for lighting or electricity?” Congressman Chua asked.