JOHOR BARU - A row of pre-World War II double-storey shophouses, in a stretch known as Cultural Street in the city centre, were saved from being razed to the ground by alert residents and quick action by the Fire and Rescue Department.
The fire started at a law firm on the second floor of one of the buildings in the historical Jalan Tan Hiok Nie at around 9.25am yesterday.
Thick smoke billowed from the office, prompting nearby shop owners to immediately contact the fire station.
Within 10 minutes, three engines with 16 firefighters from the Jalan Larkin station arrived at the scene.
"We managed to put out the fire in about 30 minutes and stopped it from spreading to other units," said chief operations officer Omera Omar.
"As it is an old building, the ventilation system within the office is poor and there was no channel for the smoke to come out," he said.
There were no casualties as no one was at the office when the fire started. Damage was said to be serious.
Omera said the cause of the fire was being investigated while the losses incurred from the incident have yet to be determined.
Due to development in other areas in Johor Baru, the city centre had been neglected and the Johor government turned Jalan Tan Hiok Nie into a Cultural Street some years back to revive life in that part of the city.
The opening of the nearby Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine area six years ago and the recent opening of new shops by young entrepreneurs helped reignite night life in the city centre.