SINGAPORE: The number of fires involving e-scooters shot up to 40 last year compared with just nine such incidences in 2016 - an increase of nearly 350 per cent.
This came even as the number of calls related to fires hit a 40-year low, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said on Friday (Feb 9) as it released its annual fire, ambulance and enforcement statistics for 2017.
Fires involving e-scooters formed 81.6 per cent of all cases involving personal mobility devices (PMDs) last year.
This could be because of more widespread use of e-scooters compared to other PMDs, said the SCDF, and advised users not to leave them charging unattended or overnight.
The number of emergency medical service calls also rose, said the SCDF, adding that it responded to 182,502 such calls in 2017 - translating to about 500 calls a day. This is a 2.4 per cent rise from the 178,154 calls received in 2016.
Overall, the SCDF received 3,871 fire calls last year, down 5.9 per cent from the previous year and the lowest recorded since 1978. The decrease was mainly due to fewer rubbish, vehicle and vegetation fires, the SCDF said, as it attributed the improvement to increased public education on how to prevent and mitigate such fires.
In particular, the SCDF observed a "good trend" that 25 per cent of rubbish fires were put out by members of the public before SCDF responders arrived, noting that these fires were relatively minor and were simple to put out with little risk to the public.
While the number of fires that took place in residences decreased by 5.7 per cent from 2016, 2,657 fires still took place in private and public homes- accounting for 68.6 per cent of all fires in Singapore last year.
Of these, 2,008 fires were caused by the indiscriminate disposal of lighted materials remained the leading cause.
Examples included cigarette butts, charcoal embers, and lighted incense sticks, which caused 51.9 per cent of all fires last year.
BATTERIES MORE LIKELY TO BE CAUSE OF PMD FIRES
Experts Channel NewsAsia spoke to stressed that batteries were more likely to be the cause of personal mobility device fires.
"The chance of batteries causing fires is higher than adapters, as adapters are external and passive," said engineer Teo Chor Kok, council member of the Institution of Engineers. "When it burns, the circuit breaks. The heat may not be able to continue. Batteries store charge, so energy will keep flowing in them until the whole (battery) burns up."
In a statement, SPRING Singapore said it was working with the Land Transport Authority to review the product safety requirements of PMDs in their entirety, including batteries.
In December, SPRING seized 175 unregistered e-scooter charging adapters from six suppliers, citing the lack of a Safety Mark label.
SCDF and SPRING Singapore have also produced brochures on safety tips to prevent battery fires, which are distributed at community events and to residents.