PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The fire at the building housing Malaysia’s biggest retirement fund EPF in Selangor on Tuesday (Feb 13) was caused by a spark that set a flammable cladding panel on the building’s exterior alight, a senior fire department official said.
Fire and Rescue Services Department deputy director-general Soiman Jahid said the fire started on the first floor of the six-floor Employment Provident Fund (EPF) building at Jalan Gasing in Selangor, as maintenance work was being carried out on the exterior of the building.
He confirmed that it was the first fire involving flammable cladding panels in Malaysia, and that the incident was similar to the Grenfell Tower fire in London last year, a fatal inferno also blamed on flammable cladding.
“Initial investigations revealed that due to the spark and the cladding used as well as the hot weather and strong wind, the fire spread to other parts of the building’s exterior," Jahid said.
Noting that the Universal Building By-Laws requires buildings to be fitted with non-flammable cladding panels, he said using highly flammable ones is a clear infringement of the law.
“A total of 70 firemen were deployed to the scene and we managed to put out the fire completely within 30 minutes,” he said adding that the department received the call on the fire at 11.52am and arrived on scene six minutes later.
The blaze has been brought under control. While almost 40 per cent of the building was reportedly destroyed, no casualties were reported.
The building is located beside the Federal Highway that links downtown Kuala Lumpur to the Petaling Jaya suburbs and the Selangor capital of Shah Alam. The main EPF headquarters is located in downtown KL.
The fund said in a statement savings and data of all its contributors, some 14 million people, are safe. The fund last week announced it was paying an annual dividend of 6.9 per cent for 2017, the highest since 1996's in two decades. EPF paid out 7 per cent in 1996.
"We would like to assure members that there has been no compromise to the data integrity or members' savings in any manner," the EPF said.
The fund said its EPF Crisis Response team worked closely with the Fire Department to ensure that the fire did not spread to any other floor or to surrounding areas.
"As the safety of customers and staff is our prime concern, the building has been totally evacuated," it added.