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Arson ruled out in Star City fire

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The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said it was electrical problem and not arson that caused the four-hour fire that gutted the Star City amusement park in October 2019.

“As per investigation report of Inter-Agency Anti-Arson Task Force, electrical fire due to overheated light ballast ang cause ng sunog [was the cause of fire],” BFP spokesman Gerrandie Agonos told the Manila Bulletin.

“Hindi po sinadya [It was not intentional],” he added.

In the official press release of the Star City management, it disclosed that investigators from the BFP, National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police concluded that the fire was caused by overheating of one of the ballasts attached to a fluorescent light above the ‘Try Your Luck’ game booth at the ground floor of the amusement park.

It added that, “the ballast malfunction was due to normal wear and tear or deterioration,” prompting the BFP “to conclude that the fire was accidental” and not intentional, contrary to previous findings.

Initial investigation by the Pasay City BFP showed that arson was the cause of fire that hit the amusement park in Pasay City, citing various reasons including, “gasoline in an area where it should not be.”

“Nakasarado [din] ang mga kuryente kapag wala silang operation [The electricity was also shut off when they were not operating], which is part of their standard operation procedure,” Supt. Paul Pili, city fire marshal, added in an interview with reporters after site inspection in October.

However, the management of the amusement park called Pili’s statement “premature” as the investigation was not yet concluded.

“The Star City management objects to the statement made public without even talking to the primary parties concerned. In any case, they alleged that the fire broke out in several places, that’s not correct. That is not true. We have videos and witnesses to show that it only came from one source,” Lawyer Rudolph Steve Jularbal, Vice President of Legal and Regulatory Compliance Group of Manila Broadcasting Company, said.

Ed De Leon, Star Parks spokesman, also clarified that Star City “could not possibly shut off its electricity completely” as there were lights inside, as well as refrigerators that were needed for the Snow World’s ice blocks.

He added that the gasoline that investigators cited was from “machines at the amusement park that were being operated by gas,” including bumper boats.

Agonos stressed that Pili’s statement “was his opinion based on his understanding.”

“Actually, wala namang official report ang BFP at ‘yung mga nabanggit ng kawani ng BFP ay kanila pong opinyon ayon sa kanilang pagkakaintindi [Actually, there was not official report from the BFP yet that time. What the BFP personnel said was their opinion based on their understanding],” he said Friday over Dobol B sa News TV interview.

A week after the incident, the Pasay City fire bureau turned over the investigation into the Star City fire to the BFP-National Capital Region and then to the Inter-Agency Anti-Arson Task Force.

The transfer is indicated in the BFP Operational Procedures Manual under Determining Responsibility and Liability which mentions that Investigation and Intelligence Division of BFP National Headquarters shall have the authority to investigate fire incident cases with incurred damages in the aggregate amount of P60,000,000 and above.

About P1 billion worth of Star City’s property were destroyed by fire which started around 12:31 a.m. It immediately reached Task Force Bravo by 2:25 a.m. was placed under control at 4:30 a.m.

The adjacent Manila Broadcasting Company (MBC)—which owns radio stations DZAR, Love Radio, Yes the Best! and Easy Rock—and Aliw Theater were also gutted.

Since the incident, operations at the amusement park were temporarily ceased, including during the Christmas season.

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