13 people evacuated from Aljunied flat fire, likely started by lit candle

SCDF was alerted at 7.05am and extinguished the blaze using a water jet. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The fire was contained within the living room, although some other parts of the unit sustained heat and smoke damage. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Bins filled with items from the house that had caught fire. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - A fire broke out in a flat in the Aljunied area on Friday morning (Aug 19) and led to 13 people being evacuated from the Housing Board block.

A statement from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said the fire at a sixth-storey unit at Block 3 Upper Aljunied Lane likely occurred due to a lit candle in the living room.

SCDF was alerted at 7.05am and extinguished the blaze using a water jet.

SCDF said three people left the block themselves before its officers arrived, while it evacuated another 10 people from nearby units. As a precautionary measure, two people were assessed by medics, but both said there was no need to take them to hospital. 

The occupant of the affected unit, Madam Teo Bong Chee, 75, lives there alone.

The walls of the charred three-room flat were covered in soot, and piles of bags and clothes inside it reached up to the windows. There were also many spare home appliances, such as radio and fans, and stacks of newspapers. 

By noon, some 14 large rubbish bins had been filled and loaded with burnt items from the flat.

Neighbours who were helping to clear the burnt flat of debris said it was infested with cockroaches. One had to brush off baby cockroaches from his back after coming out of the flat. 

Madam Teo said she had lit a candle on her altar after returning home from exercising early in the morning. She left her flat soon after to go to her family's house nearby.

Neighbours called the SCDF after smelling smoke.

Madam Teo said she did not think that such a small flame would create so serious a fire.

“I only lit the candle for about five minutes,” she said, adding that she would be moving to her family’s house nearby in the meantime.

When The Straits Times contacted the Jalan Besar Town Council for information on residents having issues with possible hoarding, a spokesman said the town council was unable to comment on the matter.

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SCDF said the fire was contained within the living room, although some other parts of the unit sustained heat and smoke damage.

It reminded the public not to leave lighted materials such as candles, tealights and incense sticks unattended and to extinguish these before leaving home.

MP for Potong Pasir Sitoh Yih Pin said the town council would be giving Madam Teo some financial assistance from a fund it has set up for such purposes to tide her over the short term. 

He said the debris should be completely cleared by Friday evening. 

By 11.30am, all neighbours had returned to their homes.

Madam Kok Ah Soon, 90, who lives two units away from Madam Teo, said she was still sleeping when neighbours knocked on her door to wake her up just after 7am. 

She said three firemen accompanied her downstairs and told her to hold her breath while she passed by the burning unit, so that she would not inhale the fumes. 

“One minute I was sleeping and the next I heard a lot of frantic knocks on my door. The only thing I was anxious about was not having time to grab my set of dentures since they are very important to me,” she said. 

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Another neighbour, who wanted to be known only as Mr Loo and declined to give his age, had slept through the fire as his flat is at the end of the corridor and quite a distance away from Madam Teo’s unit. 

“I did not realise there was a fire until much later this morning. The smell of smoke is still pretty bad, even though it has been a few hours,” he said, as he was leaving the flat to get some fresh air.

On Tuesday, a flat in Jurong East caught fire, killing a 48-year-old man, before it started burning again a day later, likely reignited by deep-seated embers within the debris. A neighbour said that the owners of the affected unit had a habit of leaving items, such as household appliances and bags, in the common corridor.

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