March 9, 2014
More than victims II
Friday’s downpour may have finally doused the suspiciously persistent blaze in Barracas but last Wednesday’s tragedy should not be washed away so easily. As in last Thursday’s editorial, the first words belong to the fallen firefighters. The immediate aftermath of the disaster elicited countless new poignant details about the nine heroic victims at many levels but we would like to stress here how many of them stood out even among that unique family who all risk their lives in the line of duty — the first female firefighter in Federal Police history (Anahí Garnica) or Inspector Leonardo Day, so prominent in the even deadlier Once rail crash two Februarys ago.
If the fire is now out and the heroic firefighters buried with full honours, their memory demands a full probe. The first step is obviously to investigate why the safety mechanisms, including the smoke detectors, alarms and the sprinklers, failed to work — various recent factors could have been responsible (December’s power cuts might have deactivated the system, going unnoticed during the summer holidays with cutbacks in night security) or was there long-standing neglect? Here the chequered history of the company running the doomed business records depot, Boston-based Iron Mountain, only adds to the suspicions around a blaze continuing for two days through light rainfall — since 1997 there have been half a dozen bad fires at its warehouses in the United States, Canada, Britain and Italy. Sinister indeed although no known international business scandal has arisen concerning the destroyed records — perhaps the cause of so many disasters is simply that so much stored paper is inherently a fire hazard (the fact remains that more people died last Wednesday than in the far more suspicious explosion of the Río Tercero munitions plant in 1995). The date of the Barracas depot (built in late 2007) could also be significant — while the latest facilities and safety mechanisms might reasonably be expected from such a modern date, this was also during the lame-duck period of the Jorge Telerman mayoralty with pro-business mayor-elect Mauricio Macri waiting in the wings, much inclined to give an investor the benefit of the doubt (especially in the city’s south side). Since Macri has been in charge ever since and especially because an Iron Mountain depot in Villa Lugano was closed down shortly beforehand (in May, 2007) for lack of fire precautions by a less pro-business City Hall, all municipal inspections since 2007 should be probed.
Full honours may have been paid to the heroic dead on Thursday, but without such an investigation they are not complete.