A year after the fire: Lessons learned as Metro Ayala rises from the ashes

|January 05,2019 - 01:59 PM

Aerial view of the smoldering Metro Ayala building taken at past 5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2017, some 43 hours after the establishment was hit by a fire that has gutted six levels of the eight-level store. CDN PHOTOS/ Christian Maningo

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Exactly a year ago today, January 5, a fire swept through the Metro Ayala department store at the Ayala Center Cebu mall complex in Cebu City.

Of its eight levels, only three were spared from the flames: the ground floor where the main entrance is located and its two basements which housed the grocery and household items.

It took nearly two days before the blaze was placed under control.

“That was one fire incident we will never forget,” said Fire Chief Inspector Noel Ababon, Cebu City Fire Marshall, in a phone interview today, Jan. 5, 2019.

“Admittedly, we had a hard time putting out the fire since the place was very enclosed and we could hardly penetrate the area. But there were some lessons learned in the process,” he added.

The Metro Ayala supermarket reopens at its original location in time for the New Year 2019 celebration. /Photo from Ayala Center Cebu Pagebook page

A year later, Metro Ayala has gradually risen from the ashes, as its management promised Cebuanos of a new and a more improved structure.

Just recently, the Metro Retail Stores Group Inc. (MRSGI) reopened its Metro Ayala Supermarket at its original location.

The supermarket now sports a different layout with wider aisle and brighter lights. If the company’s plans will push through, the rebuilding of the ground floor will be completed within the first quarter of this year while the remaining levels will be done by the second quarter of 2019.

In an earlier statement, Metro Ayala confirmed that a smoke was detected at about 9:30 p.m. on January 5, 2018 from the stockroom of the toys department. The blaze, which spewed massive plumes of thick smoke, quickly spread through several areas of the department stores.

Even as the blaze quickly raced from floor to floor, no one was fortunately hurt.

The Metro Ayala blaze was the second fire in Cebu City that lasted more than 24 hours before it was completely placed under control.

In 2011, a fire gutted Gaisano Capital South, an establishment in downtown Cebu City owned by another branch of the Gaisano clan.

It took about a week before firefighters completely put out the flames inside the enclosed building.

Ababon said last year’s Metro Ayala fire renewed pleas for more breathing apparatus for firefighters and volunteers.

“While we have some, it’s just one or two breathing appartus per station. Not all firefighters have it,” he said.

“But amid some problems, the Metro Ayala fire showed the unity of different sectors, be it organic or volunteer firefighters,” he added.

Metro Ayala, which is owned by Vicsal Development Corporation, was built in 1994 at the Cebu Business Park, a business district operated by Cebu Holdings Inc., an affiliate of Ayala Land Inc./elb

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