Ward off fire hazard with bulky item disposal service

Photo above: Ang Mo Kio Town Council cleaners Md Minhaz Md Hanif Uddin (foreground), 22, and Rajib Adbul Karim Mazi, 24, clearing bulky items at a block in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6.

SINGAPORE - More residents in Ang Mo Kio are tapping a free service by the town council to discard bulky items, which can be a fire hazard if not disposed of properly.

The service to help residents in 751 HDB blocks spring-clean their homes for Chinese New Year is ongoing until Feb 8.

This year, 30 per cent more items were left at the designated areas, compared to last year, for the cleaners to collect.

There is no cap on the number of things one can discard, unlike other times of the year when residents have to inform the town council three days in advance to remove up to only three unwanted items a month, also for free.

The initiative was introduced five years ago to help minimise the clutter caused by residents in carrying out spring-cleaning.

Last year, two fires in flats in Marsiling and Toa Payoh were sparked off by items abandoned at lift landings. In the Marsiling fire, several residents had to be treated for smoke inhalation and breathlessness. Some families were left temporarily homeless while restoration work was done to their flats. No one was hurt in the second blaze.

Since then, town councils have stepped up efforts to educate residents on the dangers of leaving unwanted items in common spaces.

There were 333 fires caused by such objects in the first half of last year, a drop from the 344 during the same period in 2011.

Still, such fires are the second biggest cause of residential fires, comprising 20.9 per cent of them.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said the high combustion potential of the discarded items left near flats is a cause for worry.

Sembawang GRC MP Ellen Lee said the problem in her ward has generally eased since the fire in Marsiling last year. "We learnt an expensive and frightful lesson last year," she said. "Vigilance has gone up and town council officers are very diligent in doing their checks around the estate."

Sembawang residents also get a recycling service during this spring-cleaning season.

In Ang Mo Kio, about 560 cleaners clear the bulky items three times a day - at noon, 6pm and 10pm. Senior property officer Wang Shiying, 27, said the residents started to make use of the service only one to two years after it was rolled out.

The town council is spending an additional $50,000 this year to dismantle and take the items to recycling centres.

Mr Lim Hai Hoy, 55, who lives in a four-room flat in Ang Mo Kio, gives the free service the thumbs up. His family disposed of two bulky items - a sofa and a cupboard - two weeks ago.

"Previously, without this service, the whole family would have to come and help me move my belongings away," said the owner of a school bus company.

"For older people, it's very troublesome to get rid of all the heavy items but now it's very easy with this service - we don't even need to travel anywhere".

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