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Increase in fires due to dry spell: SCDF

The number of fire calls between January and June rose 19.2 per cent from last year, mainly due to a rise in vegetation fires as a result of the dry season, the SCDF says.

SINGAPORE: More fire calls were made in the first half of this year despite a drop in fires at residential premises, according to the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) mid-year report released on Wednesday (Aug 20).

The SCDF said it responded to 2,532 fires between January and June this year – an increase of 407 cases, or 19.2 per cent, from 2,125 fires during the same period last year. A total of 42 incidents resulted in casualties, with 21 smoke inhalation cases and 35 fire injuries. There were two fatalities from a fire that broke out at the Marina Bay Suites on Jan 13.

The increase was largely due to a rise in vegetation fires as a result of a dry spell from January to March, the SCDF said. There was a “significant” rise in the number of vegetation fires during the first six months of the year to 529 cases, compared with the 104 cases in the first half of 2013.

VEHICULAR FIRES UP

Another concern was the increase of vehicular fires which went up from 95 in the first six months of last year, to 114 cases in the same period this year - a 20 per cent jump.

SCDF says most of the fires occurred while the vehicles were on the road, due to electrical faults or overheating of the engine compartment.

"Most vehicle fires start small but can develop rapidly due to the presence of flammables such as petrol or diesel in vehicles," said an SCDF spokesperson. "To prevent vehicle fires, we urge vehicle owners to conduct regular servicing on their vehicles and, as much as possible, equip their vehicles with fire extinguishers."

RESIDENTIAL FIRES DOWN

However, the number of fires in residential premises fell to 1,493 cases, down 3.1 per cent compared with the 1,541 fires in the same period last year. Fires in rubbish chutes and bins formed the bulk of these fires, at 54.9 per cent or 819 cases. This was an increase of 20.4 per cent from last year.

The SCDF said it observed a spike in the number of rubbish fires during the festive season. A total of 389 cases, or 47.5 per cent, of the rubbish fires occurred in January and February, due to the “indiscriminate disposal of lighted materials such as sparklers, charcoal and incense materials”, it said.

Fires involving discarded items fell 55.5 per cent, while fires involving unattended cooking fires fell 24 per cent and those involving household contents fell by 17 per cent. However, electrical fires for the first six months of 2014 rose by 16.8 per cent, mainly caused by the poor condition or maintenance of electrical wirings and cables, loose or improper connections, or electrical appliances that short-circuited, the SCDF said.

The number of enforcement checks for fire safety standards in the first half of 2014 also increased compared to the same period in 2013. SCDF says they issued 530 more notices to building owners and management for fire hazard violations between January and June in 2014 - an increase from 1,093 in the previous year.

AMBULANCE CALLS UP

Between January and June, the SCDF’s Emergency Medical Services responded to more ambulance calls. A total of 76,063 ambulance calls were made during the period, a marginal increase of 39 calls (or 0.1 per cent), as compared to last year with 76,024 ambulance calls.

Emergency calls made up 96 per cent of the calls; 1.9 per cent were non-emergency calls and 2.1 per cent were false alarms.

The number of false alarms remains a drain to ambulance resources, and can deprive those who are in genuine need of emergency medical assistance, said the SCDF. 

The number of emergency calls dipped slightly by 0.2 per cent from 73,146 to 73,023. The SCDF attributed this to the drop of 3.6 per cent in the number of road traffic accident related injuries that it responded to, from 5,476 cases to 5,280 cases.

Of the 73,023 emergency calls, 74.6 per cent were medical cases, 7.2 per cent were road traffic accident related cases and 18.2 per cent were related to other trauma cases such as industrial accidents, falls and assaults.

NEW EMERGENCY SMS FEATURE

The SCDF also officially announced an Emergency Short Messaging Service (SMS) feature specially catered to people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or those with a speech impairment (DHS). The SMS feature was initially piloted in July. Members of the DHS community can use their mobile phone to send an SMS to 70995 to inform the SCDF of emergencies, such as a fire or a medical emergency that requires a fire engine or an SCDF emergency ambulance.

To use the service, a member of the DHS community must register with one of three organisations: The Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf), TOUCH Community Services (Silent Club) or SG Enable.