More fires from batteries of mobility devices

SCDF: Fires in rubbish chutes also a concern, but fire-related '995' calls at a 38-year low

Close-up of a burnt e-bicycle battery following a fire last July. Investigations revealed that the fire was accidental in nature and of electrical origin. The e-bike's owner had left his bike charging for several hours in the living room. Last year,
Close-up of a burnt e-bicycle battery following a fire last July. Investigations revealed that the fire was accidental in nature and of electrical origin. The e-bike's owner had left his bike charging for several hours in the living room. Last year, 17 fires were caused by e-bikes, up from 14 in 2015. PHOTO: SINGAPORE CIVIL DEFENCE FORCE

Vehicle fires and fires sparked by batteries of personal mobility devices (PMDs), electric bikes and powerbanks saw an increase last year.

And while Emergency Medical Services (EMS) calls went up, the overall number of fire-related calls dipped to a 38-year low, said the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) in its annual press release of fire, ambulance and enforcement statistics yesterday.

Last year, the SCDF responded to 178,154 EMS calls, about 7.4 per cent more than the 165,853 calls in 2015.

Despite the higher number of 995 calls, the SCDF responded to 87.1 per cent of the cases within 11 minutes - an improvement from 84.9 per cent in 2015. This was partly attributed to the addition of five private emergency ambulances to its existing fleet of 55.

Last year, there were 159,356 emergency calls - 75.3 per cent were medical-related, such as chest pains and cardiac arrests, 17.9 per cent were trauma cases, such as industrial accidents and assaults, and the remaining 6.8 per cent were related to road traffic accidents.

  • Emergency calls and fires in 2016

  • 178,154

    Number of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) calls last year, up from 165,853 in 2015

    Number of emergency calls: 159,356

    Number of non-emergency calls and false alarms: 18,798


    Number of fire-related calls, out of the total 178,154 EMS calls

    Number of residential fires: 2,818, a 2.8 per cent decrease from 2015

    Top three types

    • Rubbish chute or bin fires: 1,444

    • Unattended cooking fires: 430

    • Discarded items: 345

    Number of fires in non-building premises last year: 790, down from 1,201 in 2015

    Top three types

    • Vegetation fires: 405

    • Vehicle fires: 236

    • Rubbish in open spaces: 96

    Number of fire injuries, including smoke inhalation and burn cases: 62, down from 111 in 2015

    Number of fire fatalities: One, down from seven in 2015

Of the total number of EMS calls, 4,114 were fire-related - the lowest number since 1978. This was a dip of 10.6 per cent compared with the 4,604 fire-related calls in 2015.

However, vehicle fires increased by 18.6 per cent last yearat 236, up from 199 the previous year. Most of the fires occurred while the vehicles were on the road, and the main causes were overheating and electrical problems, said the SCDF.

Fires caused by batteries of electric bicycles, PMDs and powerbanks were highlighted as an area of concern.

Last year, 17 fires were caused by electrical bicycles, up from 14 in 2015. As for PMDs, there were 14 fires, a significant increase from just one case the previous year. Three fires were caused by powerbanks, up from just one case in 2015.

Assistant Commissioner Ling Young Ern, director of the operations department, said: "There is an increasing trend in the use of PMDs...

"So we urge members of the public to take note, and we hope not to see a further increase in PMD fires in the years to come."

He also cautioned against faulty electrical circuitry and overcharging batteries that could spark a fire.

Another area of concern was fires in rubbish chutes or bins, which made up the bulk of fires at residential premises. The number of such fires fell by 6.6 per cent, but made up 51.2 per cent of fires at residential premises, with 1,444 cases last year.

The SCDF hopes to tackle the problem through public education on prevention as well as mitigation, and encourage residents to become first responders.

Last year, 20 per cent of rubbish chute and bin fires were put out by the public before the SCDF arrived on the scene. In the past three weeks, this percentage has doubled to 40 per cent.

AC Ling said emergency call centre operators have started prompting members of the public who call in about such fires to help extinguish the flames by dousing them with a bucket of water. More than 60 per cent of these attempts were successful before the SCDF arrived.

"These rubbish chute fires are low-severity fires which are usually contained within the chute and do not put members of the public at unnecessary risk," added AC Ling.

Last year, there were 62 fire injuries - involving smoke inhalation and burns - a decrease of 44.1 per cent from 111 in 2015. There was also one fire fatality, compared with seven fatalities in 2015.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline More fires from batteries of mobility devices. Subscribe