Mum, son lauded for putting out chute fire

Lt-Col Chua, with Ms Liu and her son Phua Xiang Rong Rey. Every year, the SCDF responds to around 1,500 cases of rubbish chute fires.
Lt-Col Chua, with Ms Liu and her son Phua Xiang Rong Rey. Every year, the SCDF responds to around 1,500 cases of rubbish chute fires.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

A mother and her son each received a Public Spiritedness Award from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) this week for extinguishing a rubbish chute fire.

Thanks to quick work from housewife Liu Hou Jun, 48, and her nine-year-old son, Phua Xiang Rong Rey, a fire at their Punggol block chute was put out in less than five minutes.

The Catholic High School (Primary) pupil said he could not believe he had won an award.

"I slapped myself. I thought it was a dream," added the boy, who is in Primary 3.

The awards were presented at the 3rd SCDF Division Headquarters in Yishun by the 3rd Division Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Chua, on Wednesday.

  • Chute fires: What to do

  • The Singapore Civil Defence Force gave this advice on how to prevent and eliminate rubbish chute fires:

    •Avoid throwing lit items, such as cigarette butts and sparklers, into rubbish bins or chutes before they are fully extinguished.

    •Do not dispose of flammable materials, like kerosene or paint, into rubbish chutes.

    •When faced with a rubbish chute fire, pour water into the chute until there is no smoke left. Apart from pails, plastic bags can also be used to pour water down the chute. If there are large amounts of thick, black smoke emerging from the rubbish chute, residents are advised to call 995.

On Feb 19, Ms Liu noticed smoke emerging from a chute along their 10th-floor corridor at around 6.45pm at her Sumang Link block in Punggol .

Mother and son poured four pails of water down the chute.

"We thought it was just smoke, and if we poured water (over it), it would just stop," she said.

When they continued to see the smoke, she called 995 and a Red Rhino arrived minutes later but by then the fire was out.

Mr Phua Chee Yong, 52, a taxi driver, said at the ceremony that he felt "very good" about the recognition given to his wife and son.

The awards are part of an SCDF drive to encourage members of the public to fight chute fires.

Lt-Col Chua said the time SCDF spends addressing rubbish chute fires could be better used to tackle "more critical cases, life-threatening house fires, for instance".

SCDF, which responds to around 1,500 cases of rubbish chute fires every year, has published Facebook posts educating the public on preventing such incidents.

Most are started by indiscriminate disposal of items such as cigarette butts and incense sticks.

Last year, rubbish chute fires made up 51.2 per cent of fires at residential premises, with 1,444 cases.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2017, with the headline 'Mum, son lauded for putting out chute fire'. Print Edition | Subscribe