350 roadside vegetation fires per year, mostly caused by cigarette butts: MHA

350 roadside vegetation fires per year, mostly caused by cigarette butts: MHA

Toh Tuck Road taxi
File picture of a fire on a road in Singapore (Photo: Anna Ross-Murphy)

SINGAPORE: Between 2014 and 2017, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) attended to about 350 roadside vegetation fires annually, with most of these caused by cigarette butts, said Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo on Tuesday (Mar 20).

She was responding to a question in Parliament from Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar on how many of these fires were caused by errant motorists who throw their cigarette butts onto central dividers or roadside plants and trees.

Dr Intan later added that she was “a bit surprised” by the high number of fires caused by cigarette butts on roads. She asked what enforcement action could be taken since “it’s probably a little bit difficult when motorists are on the go and litter when they drive or ride”.

Mrs Teo agreed. “When you think of vegetation fires, the fact is it would not have started immediately. Let’s say a cigarette butt is discarded. It’ll take some time.

“So hypothetically, even if someone happens to be at the right spot and right time and managed to capture on camera or through video someone throwing a cigarette butt. It’s not so easy to establish whether that particular fire started as a result of that particular littering incident.”

“SCDF leads an inter-agency task force to deal with vegetation fires,” said Mrs Teo. “Among other measures, the National Environment Agency (NEA) regularly clears roads of dry leaves which are more susceptible to catching fire.”

“But no amount of clearing will help if some members of public continue to illegally and irresponsibly discard cigarette butts.

“There are no easy ways to prevent this, except to appeal to people’s civic-mindedness; except to make it a habit of reminding people whenever you discard cigarette butts, whether at a housing estate or anywhere - that could lead to some other situation such as a fire,” she noted.

“That’s why NEA takes a very strict view of littering, especially when someone were to throw a cigarette butt,” said Mrs Teo.

“Such persons can be charged under the Environmental Public Health Act for littering at least,” she added. “And if we can prove the fact the fires also caused serious damage, such persons can be charged under the Penal Code for fire-related offences.”

“We encourage the public to report such offences via the NEA website, mobile app or hotline.”

Later, Mrs Teo also revealed that phased installation of home fire alarm devices for public rental flats will commence in June this year.

“We are starting in housing estates with a higher number of rental households with elderly residents, and expect to complete installation for all public rental flats by 2021,” she said.

The Ministry of Home Affairs announced last year that SCDF, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and the People’s Association (PA) were working together to provide free installation of home fire alarm devices for all 60,000 public rental flats.

Source: CNA/jo