More fires, but fewer occur in residential areas

More shopping malls, supermarkets, vehicles and electric bicycles caught fire last year, which saw firefighters responding to more fire-related calls.

However, there were fewer fires in residential areas, as rubbish chute and bin fires fell to a 10-year low, according to annual statistics released by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) yesterday.

Last year, the SCDF received 3,885 calls about fires, up from 3,871 the previous year.

Cigarette butts and other lighted materials that were not extinguished completely during disposal remained the leading cause of fires, accounting for more than half of all fires, said the SCDF.

Fires involving power-assisted bicycles and personal mobility devices such as e-scooters also saw a spike in numbers, from 49 cases in 2017 to 74 cases last year.

Most of these fires involved lithium ion bat-teries, and occurred during battery charging or shortly after.

More people were injured in fires last year, with 90 people suffering from burns and smoke inhalation, up from 60 in 2017.

 
 
 

There were also more deaths from fires, with four fatalities last year, up from three the previous year. In the four cases, the fires occurred at home.

While more than half of all fires last year occurred in residences, with a total of 2,411 cases, the number fell by 9 per cent compared with 2017.

Most of the residential fires occurred in rubbish chutes or bins, with a total of 1,173 incidents. While the number of rubbish fires fell to a new low last year, they made up nearly half of all residential fires in Singapore, translating to an average of 100 calls to the SCDF per month.

As rubbish fires are usually small and pose no risk of spreading or threatening human life, the SCDF said it hopes more members of the public can step up to put out such fires.

This would help free up manpower for the SCDF to focus on major fires and life-threatening emergencies, it added.

Since 2016, about one-fourth of rubbish fires were put out by members of the public before firefighters arrived at the scene.

The public can use the SCDF's myResponder app, which will alert users to minor rubbish chute and bin fires nearby. So far, about 1,000 such alerts have been sent out, and 370 individuals have responded to them.

In other areas, shopping malls and supermarkets caught fire more often last year, with 71 cases, up from 51 in the previous year. Overall, fires at non-residential places increased by about 10 per cent last year, from 467 to 515 incidents.

The statistics also showed that nearly 600 vegetation fires occurred last year, an increase of nearly 60 per cent, compared with 368 in the previous year.

This was largely due to the dry weather in February last year, which had 213 vegetation fires, up from 17 during the same period in 2017, said the SCDF.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2019, with the headline 'More fires, but fewer occur in residential areas'. Print Edition | Subscribe