Funeral wake blocked fire engine access point in Henderson Road blaze in which NSF died
The blocked access point led to a delay of 18 minutes in the Singapore Civil Defence Force's response to the Henderson Road fire.
SINGAPORE: A fire engine accessway leading to the Henderson Road block where a fire broke out last month was blocked by a funeral wake tent, leading to a delay in firefighters' response to the blaze.
This was revealed by Minister of State for the Ministry of Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim in Parliament on Monday (Jan 9).
A 19-year-old full-time national serviceman (NSF), Edward H Go, fell unconscious while fighting the fire and died in hospital. He was the first firefighter to have lost his life during an operation by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
Responding to a question by MP Murali Pillai (PAP-Bukit Batok) about the challenges SCDF faced during the firefighting operation on Dec 8, Associate Professor Faishal said the obstruction by a tent at a funeral wake delayed SCDF's arrival by 18 minutes.
"The officers removed the bollards that were padlocked to the ground near the tentage to create an access path. This delayed their arrival by 18 minutes," he told the House.
"Based on the ground commander’s assessment of the resources needed for the operation, 22 emergency vehicles and 61 responders from six fire stations were deployed to the incident."
He added that about 40 per cent of the responders were national servicemen. The remaining 60 per cent were regular officers.
The contractor responsible for putting up the funeral wake tentage has been issued a summons for obstructing the accessway, said Tanjong Pagar Town Council in response to CNA's queries on Monday. It did not name the contractor.
"There are signages on-site to inform the public to keep service roads free of obstruction," said the town council.
"Our officers conduct regular inspections on the ground. In this case, the tentage was put up on Dec 7 evening and the fire incident occurred on Dec 8 morning."
Sergeant 1 Edward H Go was accorded a ceremonial funeral on Dec 13 and posthumously promoted from the rank of corporal.
He had "some level of experience" and had attended to nearly 60 fire and rescue calls since he was posted to the Central Fire Station in May last year, said Assoc Prof Faishal in response to a supplementary question from Mr Murali, who had asked what the 19-year-old's extent of training was for the incident.
SGT1 Go also attained a gold standard for his Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) and "fared well" in other mandatory course requirements, receiving an A grade for his Breathing Apparatus Proficiency Test, said Assoc Prof Faishal.
In addition, the 19-year-old's performance as a trainee was among the top 25 per cent of his cohort.
To be deployed as firefighters, NSFs need to be certified medically fit and of Physical Employment Standards (PES) "A", "B1" or "B2". They will also need to complete a four-week Basic Rescue Training as well as a 12-week Firefighter Course (FFC) at the Civil Defence Academy (CDA), Assoc Prof Faishal said earlier in his response.
The FFC includes both theoretical and practical components, and a series of proficiency and certification tests. These include the IPPT, Breathing Apparatus Proficiency Test, Hazmat Responder Certification Test, Firemanship Skills Assessment and a written test on basic firemanship, rescue and equipment knowledge.
All firefighting personal protective equipment used by SCDF is certified according to relevant international standards such as the American National Fire Protection Association standards and European standards, added Assoc Prof Faishal.
"Firefighting training at the CDA is conducted with ‘live' fire simulators to provide realism, so that trainees gain experience operating in conditions similar to real-life firefighting. SCDF has protocols to ensure that the training curriculum is reviewed regularly to ensure currency," he said.
MP Gerald Giam (WP-Aljunied) also raised questions, including when investigations will be completed and whether safety measures will be reviewed in light of this incident.
SCDF said on Dec 10 that the fire, which broke out in a two-room flat on the fourth floor of Block 91 Henderson Road, was likely of electrical origin.
Firefighters had to force their way into the smoke-logged unit, wearing breathing apparatus.
"The police are currently conducting an independent, thorough investigation into the circumstances of SGT1 Edward’s demise, and will apprise the Coroner of its findings," said Assoc Prof Faishal.
"At this stage, it is premature to determine the factors which contributed to SGT1 Edward’s death. The Coroner will consider the police’s investigation findings, in determining the cause of death," he added, noting that authorities are unable to provide further details at this point due to ongoing investigations.
"SCDF will seek to understand what had happened, including if standard operating procedures and protocols had been followed, and how these may need to be tightened to keep the officers as safe as possible when they serve our nation."