updated 6/9/2009 8:52:36 PM ET 2009-06-10T00:52:36

Two Sonora state government officials whose wives are owners of a Mexican day care center where 44 children died in a fire resigned Tuesday, saying they wanted to clear the way for an investigation into the blaze.

Antonio Salido, finance director for the state's infrastructure department, and Alfonso Escalante, the assistant secretary for livestock, announced their resignations at a joint news conference accompanied by their wives.

"To avoid any type of speculation, we have presented our resignations as public servants to allow for a better clarification of events," Salido read from a statement. He took no questions and it was not immediately clear if there were other owners of the day care besides the wives.

A fire that started at a neighboring warehouse swiftly spread to the ABC day care center in Hermosillo on Friday, killing 44 children and injuring 38 children and adults.

Salido said the day care center had three clearly marked emergency exits and strictly followed safety rules established by the Mexican Social Security Institute, which outsourced child services to them.

'Passed all the inspections'
"It passed all the inspections that current regulations require," Salido said.

Witnesses have said that no fire alarm or sprinkler system went off, and one mother said there was only one exit and that a second door to the day care was bolted shut.

The private facility — leased by the government to provide people low-cost service — cared for 173 children in a converted warehouse in an industrial area, surrounded by mechanic shops and across from a gas station, officials said. About 50 children had left before the fire started.

Salido said the day care opened its doors in 2001, before the state's treasury department rented the building next door as a warehouse for cars, tires and documents, and before a gas station was opened across the street.

Sonora state attorney general Abel Murrieta said Monday that a short circuit or overheating in an air conditioning system in the adjacent warehouse may have caused the fire.

In a televised message Tuesday, Sonora Gov. Eduardo Bours reiterated his promise for a thorough investigation.

"We will get to the bottom of this and once the investigation is finished we will act without hesitation and with the full weight of the law," Bours said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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