PMDs, vegetation fuel 7.8% jump in fire-related calls

Lieutenant-Colonel Janice Oh, senior assistant director of Singapore Civil Defence Force's Emergency Medical Services Department, telling Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin the measures taken to disinfect ambulances that have ferrie
Lieutenant-Colonel Janice Oh, senior assistant director of Singapore Civil Defence Force's Emergency Medical Services Department, telling Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin the measures taken to disinfect ambulances that have ferried suspected coronavirus cases.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SCDF responds to nearly 3,000 calls; PMD-linked fires almost double

Firefighters responded to more fire-related calls last year, sparked by a jump in vegetation fires and personal mobility devices (PMD) catching fire.

Statistics released by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) yesterday showed that it responded to a total of 2,862 fire-related calls last year, up 7.8 per cent from the year before. This figure excludes the number of fires involving rubbish and rubbish chutes, which the SCDF said pose a "very low risk" relative to other fires.

Most of the blazes last year were due to the indiscriminate disposal of materials like cigarette butts or charcoal embers, which account for more than one in three fires.

Fires of electrical origin were the second most common cause of fire, resulting in about 23 per cent of all blazes last year. Vegetation fires saw the largest rise last year, with the numbers jumping by 50.2 per cent from the year before, to 883 cases last year.

"This was largely due to the sustained dry weather between January and March 2019, as well as between July and September 2019," said SCDF in its statement.

To address this, the agency will continue to work with the Wildfire Task Force, which has been stepping up preventive measures, such as trimming overgrown vegetation at high-risk areas.

"Patrols at fire hot spots will also be increased during dry periods to detect possible fire risks in order for SCDF to promptly attend to any fire occurrences," said the agency.

There were 102 PMD-related fires last year, close to double the previous year's number, and 46 people were injured from these fires and blazes involving power-assisted bicycles, including one fatality.

This is about 30 per cent of the total number of 142 injury cases and one fatality resulting from fires last year. About half of those injured suffered from smoke inhalation, and the other half, from burns.

 
 

SCDF urged owners of non-UL2272 certified devices to dispose of them at designated disposal points. It added that it will continue to highlight the fire safety risks associated with PMDs and power-assisted bicycles.

However, SCDF's director of operations, Assistant Commissioner (AC) Daniel Seet, said the agency has seen a decreasing trend for such PMD-related fires since last December. "We are continuing to monitor this. This is something that the inter-agency task force... is looking closely into," said AC Seet.

Fires in residences fell by 5.4 per cent from the year before to 1,168. Unattended cooking, discarded items and household contents figured most highly in such fires.

Fires in open areas such as in vegetation or vehicles spiked by around 30 per cent to 1,198, while fires in non-residential premises went up by 0.2 per cent to 496.

Paramedics also responded to more calls last year, with an increase in both emergency and non-emergency calls to the 995 hotline.

Of the 191,468 calls for emergency medical services, 9.2 per cent, or 17,626 calls, were non-emergencies or false alarms. This constitutes around 48 non-emergency calls every day. SCDF said it will continue to raise public awareness of the differences between emergency and non-emergency cases.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2020, with the headline 'PMDs, vegetation fuel 7.8% jump in fire-related calls'. Print Edition | Subscribe