2,500 fires broke out in first half of year

2,500 fires broke out in first half of year
A worker from Prince's Landscape & Construction watering plants at Bukit Batok Street 31 in February. The "unusual dry spell" early in the year contributed to the 529 vegetation fires in the first six months of this year.

A surge in the number of vegetation fires during an "unusual dry spell" between January and March has led to a rise in the total number of fires in the first half of this year.

From January to June, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) had to deal with around 2,500 fires, compared to around 2,100 in the same period last year.

This was due to the 529 vegetation fires - five times the number in the first six months of last year, when there were 104 cases.

The last time there were more of such fires over a six-month period was in 2005, where there were 697 cases.

The statistics also showed that vehicle fires have climbed by a fifth, from 95 in the first half of last year to 114 cases.

SCDF could not pinpoint the reason for the increase, but said that many of the fires were caused by electrical faults or overheating in the engine compartment.

Mr Hanafi Othman, who owns East West Auto Service, said that such fires may also be caused by wear and tear of the fuel line.

"It may cause fuel leakage. If the fuel touches anything hot, like the exhaust, the fuel will catch fire and spread across the car," he said.

Also on the rise were indus-trial fires, which went up by nearly 17 per cent to 83 cases. One-fifth of the incidents involved warehouses.

While the number of residential fires fell by just 3 per cent, SCDF noticed a "big drop" in those caused by discarded items - from 319 cases to 142.

Rubbish fires caused by improper disposal of lighted materials continued to form the bulk of residential fires at 55 per cent.

Fires on commercial premises dropped as well, by 7.3 per cent. Despite the fall, fires in eating establishments, such as coffee shops, remain an "area of concern", said SCDF director of operations Anwar Abdullah, as they can engulf the area quickly.

There were 34 such cases in the six months.

More than half of the fires that happened this year so far were caused by a "dropped light", which includes lighted cigarette butts that were not properly extinguished, embers from charcoal, and lighted incense sticks. They accounted for 1,307 cases in the six months.

And while the number of people injured by fire shrank - there was a 45 per cent drop in smoke inhalation cases to 21 this year, and a 19 per cent dip in burn injuries to 35 - there were more deaths reported.

Security guards Sim Lai Huat, 55, and Sooria Kala Kanaseon, 33, died in a fire at the Marina Bay Suites condominium on Jan 13 this year.

In the first half of last year, no one died from a fire, but four people died in the later half.

Meanwhile, to make sure they can do more than just treat heart attack cases, fire bikers will undergo an Emergency Medical Technician course, the SCDF announced yesterday.

It will teach them how to provide help to people with other ailments - such as serious injury and loss of consciousness.

Said SCDF's chief medical officer, Colonel Dr Ng Yih Yng: "The fire bikers get to cases faster as they are more mobile. This will lead to improved response time and the care of patients."


This article was first published on August 21, 2014.
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