Fire incidents rose sharply across the country over the last four years, statistics suggest.
According to the statistics available with Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense, the number of fire incidents was 17,830 in 2014 but it increased to 19,642 in 2018.The number of fire incidents in 2016 came down to 17,173 from 17,488 in 2015 but the following last two years recorded a sharp rise in incidents, making the tally at 18,105 in 2017 and 19,642 in 2018.
Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence director general (DG) Brigadier General Ali Ahmed Khan said at a presentation thatfaulty electric wires, higher power loads, loose connection, use of old equipment, unsafe use of chemicals, old and risky gas pipelines and petrol and CNG/LPG stations at improper places are responsible for most of the fire incidents.
The BFSC DG showed a number of reasons as challenges to fight any fire incident in Bangladesh. These are as narrow roads, traffic jam, insufficient water resources, dense cloud smoke, insufficient fire stations, lack of hydrants, delayed information, unplanned construction of building and lack of awareness.
The FSCD came up with the statistics and presentation at a roundtable discussion titled ‘Fire Safety Issues in Bangladesh Challenges and Way Forward’ at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the capital on Saturday.
Experts, at the roundtable, opined that the reasons of most of the fire incidents are leakage in gas line managed by Titas gas, insufficient water hydrant controlled by WASA, construction of buildings in violation of building codes and lack of practical know-how to use fire extinguishers and research at higher educational level.
They also blamed the government for not implementing different initiatives taken earlier to ensure fire safety across the country.They recommended better co-ordination among government service agencies, reforms in National Building Code, incorporating lessons on combating fire in textbooks at different levels of educational institutions and raise awareness among the masses and make different rules and regulations of different government agencies having proper compliance system.
They also recommended that there should be a Fire Safety Council consisting of retired fire service officials as they are experts in fire safety issues having multiple trainings.
Talking at the roundtable, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) mayor Sayeed Khokon said, “We have made massive progress in different sectors, but we have to wait a bit to develop ourselves in terms of capacity and equipment to combat fire countrywide.”
“Chemical industry is one of the main reasons of fire incidents, particularly in old Dhaka. For resolving the problem, we have already talked with the chemical industry owners. We have decided to run a mobile court from the next week against the chemical houses that pose a risk of fire and action against them,” the mayor said.
He said, “Fire is not only a natural incident. Sometimes it may be the result of sabotage by the vested quarters as more and more fire incidents are being reported at different slums in the capital, including Korail slum.
Urging Dhaka Metropolitan Police to look into the matter against whom cases were filed after the fire incidents, he said, “It is the duty of the city corporation to ensure fire security of impoverished people as well those living in posh areas.
The mayor urged the Titas gas authorities to install fire auto sensor along Titas gas lines. He also urged the WASA authorities to provide hydrant faculties to fire service personnel so that they can fight fire in a better way.
“A project of World Bank to combat climate change is underway,” he said, adding that 75 percent of the project has been implemented by the Urban Resilience Project of Dhaka city corporations,” he informed.
Speaking at the roundtable, architect Mobasher Hossain said, “If any fire incident or natural disaster happens there is not designated space where people can gather or can get amenities during natural disaster. Besides, there is lack of knowledge on how to use fire equipment and exit from the buildings during natural disaster.”
“A lot of seasoned fire officials go on retirement. They also underwent valuable trainings on various occasions. We are losing the experts following their retirement. But in modern countries these people join the National Safety Council. We need such council to best utilize these experts,” he said.
“If any fire breaks out in large scale in big projects like Rooppur Power Plant then the fire service won’t be able to combat fire as it is not well-equipped. So, we shall have to attain the capacity by raising manpower and equipment as well as bringing reforms in existing rules and regulations and better co-ordination among the agencies,” said additional secretary of Security Services Division of home ministry Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty.
Representatives from RAJUK, Hosuing and Building Research Institute, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA), Institute of Engineers of Bangladesh, Titas Gas, Public Works Department, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), experts from BUET, BRAC, Volume Zero, Vstara Architect, Bangladesh Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Authority, took part, among others, at the roundtable.