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Marina Bay Suites fire: Firefighters had to climb almost 20 storeys

The management said there are residents living in only about 20 of the 221 units in Marina Bay Suites. So far, 203 units have been sold. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The management said there are residents living in only about 20 of the 221 units in Marina Bay Suites. So far, 203 units have been sold. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Firefighters at the Marina Bay Suites condominium after the blaze was put out. They took the fireman's lift to a safe level, before using the stairs to look for fire and for people to evacuate. On the 63rd floor, they met with intense heat and smoke,
Firefighters at the Marina Bay Suites condominium after the blaze was put out. They took the fireman's lift to a safe level, before using the stairs to look for fire and for people to evacuate. On the 63rd floor, they met with intense heat and smoke, indicating they were close to the blaze. They used it as a ''buffer'', an area from which they could carry out fire-fighting operations. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
A resident returning to her Marina Bay Suites home yesterday. The condominium is largely unoccupied. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
A resident returning to her Marina Bay Suites home yesterday. The condominium is largely unoccupied. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
van leaving Marina Bay Suites carrying the bodies of the victims yesterday. The two security guards were found in a stationary service lift on the 65th floor which had its doors open. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
van leaving Marina Bay Suites carrying the bodies of the victims yesterday. The two security guards were found in a stationary service lift on the 65th floor which had its doors open. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

They took lift just to safe level, before working their way up to tackle blaze

To put out a fire raging on the 65th floor of a skyscraper on Monday night, firefighters took the lift just to a safe level, before climbing almost 20 storeys to confront the blaze.

Singapore Civil Defence Force officers had to call in all their training at the Marina Bay Suites condominium to fight the highest fire to occur here.

SCDF said it was alerted to the fire at about 10pm by a caller, whereupon it sent three fire engines, three light fire attack vehicles, four support vehicles and an ambulance to the scene. A total of 50 of its officers were involved in the incident, it said.

The first team of 10 officers that arrived took a fireman's lift - which can be operated in the event of a fire - from the ground to the 46th floor, said a source.

From there, they worked their way up an escape staircase, lugging equipment such as breaching tools, fire hoses and breathing apparatus. Along the way, they checked each floor, looking for fire and for people to evacuate.

It was on the 63rd floor that they met intense heat and smoke, indicating they were close to the blaze. They decided to use it as a "buffer", an area from which they could carry out fire-fighting operations.

The 63rd floor was also where the building's two fire escape staircases linked up.

The officers then made their way to the 65th floor but could not open the door of the fire escape as it was too hot. Smoke was also wafting in through gaps in the door.

The men went back down to the 63rd floor and back up on the other staircase, but could not open the one-way door from their side on the 65th floor.

They eventually broke down the door and fought the fire with three water jets.

It was only after the fire had been brought under control that the officers found the charred bodies of security officers Sim Lai Huat, 58, a Singaporean, and Sooria Kala Kanaseon, 34, a Malaysian.

They were in a stationary service lift on the floor which had its doors open.

It is believed the pair had taken the service lift up to the floor when the fire alarms went off, and were overwhelmed by the fire when the doors opened.

Fire safety experts say in high-rise buildings, wet risers and refuge floors are in place to help firemen combat fires on higher floors and get residents to safety more easily.

Buildings above 60m have wet risers, channels for pipes, to deliver water to higher floors. Pipes and valves transporting water up the building and landing valves on each floor allow firemen to connect their hoses to a water supply.

The SCDF's Fire Code also specifies that residential buildings over 40 storeys must have refuge floors at intervals of about 20 storeys. These are made of non-combustible materials and act as temporary holding areas during evacuation.

The Straits Times understands the Marina Bay Suites has several refuge floors.

The 221-unit development in the Central Business District is said to be largely unoccupied, with residents living in only about 20 of the units.

sujint@sph.com.sg

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