Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 July 2020

Families risking lives by flouting fire safety rules, say Dubai police

There were almost 200 residential building fires in Dubai last year

Thick black smoke from the Fountain Views tower in Dubai last year. Courtesy Griet Wyseur
Thick black smoke from the Fountain Views tower in Dubai last year. Courtesy Griet Wyseur

Families are risking lives by ignoring fire safety rules, Dubai police say.

Lighting barbecues indoors or discarding cigarettes from high-rise apartments are some of the main causes of residential fires, especially the ones that start in balconies.

“Although termed as accidents, most fires are preventable,” said Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed, head of fire effects examination at the forensic science and criminology department of Dubai police.

Last year there were 196 fires in buildings, villas, and labour camps, according to Dubai police.

“Thirty-one fires were caused by “glowing” objects, such as charcoal and cigarette butts,” Mr Ahmed said.

“Most home fires start in the kitchen as it contains flammable substances, with the balcony one of the most common sources of blazes as they are used as storage. I have witnessed a few scenarios where balconies are used for barbecues,” he said.

In August last year, a carelessly thrown away cigarette caused the fire at the Torch tower. The blaze was caused by the cigarette falling on to balcony plants and setting them alight. A few days ago a small fire in Dubai Marina was reported to have been caused by a cigarette thrown into a plant pot.

“Some fires start in bedrooms and candles or cigarettes are usually the main causes,” said Mr Ahmed, whose unit investigates the causes of fires.

“In early 2017, an Arab national woman placed several candles near her bed. When she moved, one of the pillows accidentally fell on the candle. Fire fighters rushed to the scene and put out the fire. When police questioned the woman to determine the causes of the fire, she had no idea that the fire started due to placing candles near her bed,” he said.

“Of the 196 fires, Sixty-four fires were caused by electrical faults.”

A total of 815 accidents, including fires, gas cylinder explosions and suffocations, were investigated by the unit last year.

“Overloading sockets is dangerous and can be very costly, yet it can be easily avoided. So many people do not replace old wires and overload extension cords with too many devices, which cause fires,” the fire expert said.

“There were other 20 fires in construction sites in the emirate last year."

Most fires in construction sites are caused by faulty electrics, lack of maintenance and neglecting basic fire safety rules.


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Mr Ahmed said labourers at construction sites often install their own electricity wiring.

“There should be greater awareness among employers and labourers. Employers or contractors must assign a supervisor in the construction site to ensure the careful use of electrical power and safety precautions. Some of them install their electricity connecting wires for personal use while others throw away flammable objects leaving the site at higher risk of catching fire,” said Mr Ahmed.

“Many people are living in one apartment in labourer accommodations. Those bedrooms are packed with bunk beds and several people are using the same socket,” he said.

Two fires were caused by individuals who held rituals in their apartments.

Some fires are spontaneous, while others are intentionally started. Seven fires were intentionally lit last year, according to Dubai police.

“Most intentional fires involve setting vehicles on fires. While investigating causes of car fires, we examine the vehicle and if traces of oil or fuel are found in the car seats, it is usually considered one of the signs that a car was set on fire on purpose,” Mr Ahmed said.

“Around 40 labourers started a fire in a construction site last year. Firefighters responded to the incident and police investigated the matter.”

Mr Ahmed did not disclose details about the circumstances of the fire.

On Sunday, Ajman Civil Defence officials carried out inspections on labour accommodations and several warehouses in a bid to ensure following safety procedures. They found one shops to be storing 100 gas cylinders dangerously without following safety regulations.

Officials gave the warehouse owner a notice period to rectify the problem.

Updated: February 19, 2018 02:55 PM



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