x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Fire code breaches threaten warehouses

Almost 1,000 warehouses, factories and labour camps in Dubai will be closed if their owners fail to eliminate fire hazards.

Breaches of the fire code have led to warehouses such as this one in the Al Quoz area catching fire.
Breaches of the fire code have led to warehouses such as this one in the Al Quoz area catching fire.

DUBAI // Almost 1,000 warehouses, factories and labour camps in Dubai will be closed if their owners fail to eliminate fire hazards uncovered during inspections prompted by a series of devastating industrial blazes. Exposed electrical wires, improperly stored flammable materials and blocked emergency exits were among the potentially lethal problems discovered during last month's intensive inspections by the Civil Defence department.

The building owners face fines of up to Dh50,000 (US$13,612) and the possible closure of their businesses if they fail to address the hazards within a set time frame - for some, as little as two weeks. Ten Civil Defence teams carried out the spot checks over a four-week period. A spokesman for the department said: "There were lots of dangerous fire hazards in most places." Inspectors visited 1,176 industrial buildings, 907 of which were found to be in violation of safety guidelines. Of these, 269 were deemed fire hazards.

The inspections followed a spate of fires earlier this year, including the massive blaze that destroyed 80 warehouses in the Al Quoz industrial area, causing an estimated Dh1 billion in damage. The fire, which killed two people, was triggered by an explosion in a warehouse that was illegally storing fireworks. In April, a fire also destroyed one of Dubai's oldest and most popular markets, the Naif Souk.

Poorly maintained fire detectors and improperly stored or missing firefighting equipment were among the most common safety violations at warehouses and factories. The spokesman said: "The owners have now being given a time frame to rectify the problems that can endanger lives. It is about safety and we have got very serious about it. Some owners are given two to three weeks to fix it and in some cases two or three months depending on the severity of the problem.

"If they do not adhere to our code, we fine them up to Dh50,000, shut them down or pass them to the courts." The spokesman said many building owners failed to display vital information, such as the size of the warehouse and types of materials stored inside. "This is important if there is a fire because the fire service will know exactly what is in the building." At labour camps, inspectors discovered a range of problems, including overcrowded bedrooms, where they also found improperly stored gas cylinders. Alarms and firefighting tools were poorly maintained, and hazardous waste was found around and within the housing.

Fire safety posters had also been removed at some labour camps. @Email:eharnan@thenational.ae