Jakarta to boost building safety after fire

Cooling down: Firefighters inspect the top floors of the 20-story Wisma Kosgoro Tuesday after the skyscraper caught fire for almost 12 hours. Police said forensic experts were still investigating the cause of the fire that destroyed the building’s top five floors.

Following the fire at the Wisma Kosgoro building on Jl. Thamrin in Central Jakarta, the Jakarta Fire Agency plans to intensify evaluations of high-rise buildings in the capital and in the event a building's management refuses to comply, the agency will notify the public.

Jakarta Fire Agency chief Subedjo said his agency would prioritize high-risk, old buildings.

"We will start with 12 buildings and if their safety is not up to standard, they will have to carry out improvements," he said.

He added that the agency would place a sticker on a building that signified it failed to fulfil fire-protection standards if its owner did not comply with the recommendations of the agency. "The sticker will inform the public that the building is not safe, so hopefully tenants and visitors force the developer to improve it," he said.

Subedjo said the agency was previously unable to carry out such a move as it had no legal basis to do so.

"Now there are gubernatorial regulations that allow us to enforce the bylaw," he said.

Subedjo said the Kosgoro building had been warned in 2008 that some of its protection systems were in need of repairs.

A fire razed the building's 16th floor and several floors above it on Monday night. It took more than 24 hours for around 200 Fire Agency personnel with 35 fire trucks to extinguish the fire.

Dozens of fire trucks tamed the fire around midnight; however the fire reignited at 6:30 a.m. on the 20th floor, forcing fire trucks to return to the scene. The fire was completely extinguished at 12 p.m. on Tuesday.

No casualties were reported in the fire.

Subedjo said his personnel experienced difficulties in taming the fire as some of the building's equipment that was supposed to help the firefighters were not in working order. "The lifts for firefighters did not work," he said.

Subedjo said high-rise buildings were required to provide and maintain such lifts in case of a fire.

Besides lifts, high-rise buildings are also required to be equipped with a pump to supply water to the sprinklers on the ceilings of each floor.

Subedjo said Kosgoro's pump house was also under repair on Monday night.

He said on account of strong winds, firefighters had to periodically halt their fire-fighting efforts to avoid hot smoke. "Extinguishing the fire from inside the building is the most effective method while the water from the sky lift is only used as a cooling system," he said.

Subedjo called on high-rise building owners to employ technicians who understood fire-protection systems. "The technician would conduct an internal audit on the building's protection system. They should report the result to us," he said.

Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Martinus Sitompul said five floors were damaged in the blaze. "We have questioned two security officers in the building," Martinus said on Tuesday.

Initial police reports state that the fire may have been caused by an electrical short circuit on the 16th floor, but the origin of the fire has yet to be determined.

Hayono Isman, owner of the building, said he appreciated the Jakarta Fire Agency for its hard work but denied the building was not up to standard.

"If the building was not up to standard, I believe that it would have been razed to the ground," Hayono, who is also head of Kosgoro, an organisation affiliated with the Golkar Party, said on Monday as quoted by Antara news agency.