No fire, just smoke at UST Hospital, BFP investigator says

Photo from Tutuban Fire Volunteer Association’s Facebook page.

CONTRARY TO earlier reports, no fire broke out at the fourth floor of the UST Hospital’s building last Tuesday since the area was only infused with smoke, an investigator from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Sampaloc said.

The incident at the St. Vincent Ferrer, O.P. building of the hospital was in its preliminary stage, meaning smoke was present but no fire developed, initial findings by the fire bureau revealed.

“It was still a fire incident since it underwent an incipient stage only but it did not develop–it was just smoke. Incipient stage means smoke is emitted until a fire erupts, [but in this case,] there was no fire,” a BFP arson investigator told The Flame

Several misconceptions about the incident surfaced last Tuesday, July 2, following reports that a fire had damaged a portion of UST Hospital.

“It shouldn’t have been declared first-alarm but it was declared [as such] since it’s a health facility. But it was just smoke, there was really no damage there,” the fire officer said.

The fire investigator added that the engineers summoned by the BFP did not detect any electrical wiring issue, contrary to previous reports.

According to the investigator, witnesses, engineers and hospital personnel said the smoke had stemmed from a misalignment in the air handling unit (AHU) on the fourth floor. The unit’s motor, which helps circulate patients’ oxygen, had slipped from its proper placement and caused friction. The friction resulted in the release of particles and generated toxic smoke, which then dispersed through the ducting system.

“The air handling unit’s blower became misaligned, causing friction and producing smoke. The ducting, while flammable, did not catch fire but accumulated heat due to the friction,” the investigator said.

The friction-induced smoke was likened to sparks produced during welding, but no substantial fire damage was noted.

No injuries and property damages were reported. The ceiling of the floor was dismantled but it was only taken apart to search for the potential cause of the smoke, the BFP investigator said.

The Sampaloc fire department had received an emergency call at 2:53 a.m. and raised the situation to first alarm at 3:16 a.m. despite the absence of actual flames due to the nature of the health facility and the potential risk to patients.

By 4:09 a.m., the situation was under control and the smoke was cleared out by 4:15 a.m. 

Fire authorities regard the misalignment of the motor in the AHU as one of the possible causes. The incident is still under investigation. F

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