Motor inspection firm Vicom offers free fire-fighting lessons amid surge in vehicle blazes

Vehicles that caught fire (clockwise from top left) on the Ayer Rajah Expressway on April 27, along Jurong Canal Drive on Jan 22, along Adam Road on April 27 and along Commonwealth Avenue on April 30.

SINGAPORE - Vehicle inspection firm Vicom has rolled out a free fire-fighting course for customers on the back of a surge in vehicular fire cases.

The first such training conducted by a vehicle inspection company, it will be available to all motorists who send their vehicles for inspection at its Sin Ming premises.

The programme, offered jointly with Lingjack Engineering Works - a manufacturer of fire-fighting equipment - will teach members of the public how to put out fires originating from car engines and home kitchens.

Asked if its move was motivated by increasing cases of vehicular fires, a spokesman for ComfortDelGro - parent group of Vicom - would not comment, saying merely that it was a "public service".

According to the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), the number of reported vehicle fires has surged by more than 30 per cent in the first half of the year.

From January to June, there were 128 cases - up from 98 in the same period last year.

April appeared to be a particularly fiery month, with three vehicles catching fire on the same day.

On April 12, a car caught fire in the afternoon in Jalan Bingka near Bukit Timah Plaza; a van caught fire earlier that morning in an open-air carpark at Block 30 Telok Blangah Rise; and another car caught fire at 8.55pm at the foot of Block 75B Redhill Road.

The trend seems to be continuing in the second half of this year, with at least three separate cases reported so far this month.

Mr Sim Wing Yew, CEO of Vicom, putting out a stove fire during the training . PHOTO: COMFORTDELGRO CORPORATION LIMITED

On July 11, a car caught fire while travelling on the Ayer Rajah Expressway in the evening. On July 16, another car caught fire in Braddell Road in the morning.

On Tuesday (July 24), a Trans-Cab taxi burst into flames along the Central Expressway in the afternoon.

An SCDF spokesman said vehicle fires are caused primarily by electrical faults within the engine compartment.

He advised motorists to equip their vehicles with a fire extinguisher.

"Most vehicle fires start small but develop rapidly due to the presence of flammables such as petrol, diesel and lubricants," he said. "Hence it is advisable for every vehicle to be equipped with a fire extinguisher so as to enable the driver to extinguish an incipient fire before it spreads."

If and when a motorist notices smoke, he should pull over safely to the side of the road, turn off the ignition, and evacuate everyone from the vehicle, the SCDF advised.

To minimise the risk of fires, motorists should service their vehicles regularly at authorised vehicle workshops, it added, with special attention paid to the vehicle's electrical, engine and fuel systems.

Besides regular servicing, owners should also look out for any sign of oil leakage, said SCDF.

ComfortDelGro, which equips its entire fleet of about 12,500 taxis with fire extinguishers - the only cab operator to do so here - said the fire-fighting training session will last no more than 10 minutes.

The programme will be available for a month, up to Aug 25.

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