By Jake Chng
Items discarded at common residential areas, such as corridors and void decks, are catching fire more frequently, adding to the number of emergencies handled by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) last year.
The number of such fires grew by 38 per cent, from 467 in 2008 to 644 last year, the SCDF said.
Together with vegetation fires, these cases fuelled an increase of 6 per cent in the total number of fires that occurred here last year, from 4,973 cases in 2008 to 5,263 last year.
The SCDF said: "Fires caused by discarded items can be easily prevented if residents do not leave unwanted household items outside their homes or at common areas."
The discarded items may be combustible and can go up in flames if lighted materials, such as incense sticks, are thrown on them, it added.
Undergraduate William Li, 24, who lives in a housing estate in Tiong Bahru, said: "I actually see discarded items like newspapers at void decks and beside the lifts in my estate quite frequently.
So, if someone throws a cigarette butt or something (that is) lit (on them), there's a chance that the pile may ignite, which is potentially very dangerous." The number of vegetation fires rose by 23 per cent, from 426 in 2008 to 523 last year.
The SCDF explained: "This increase was due to an unusually dry spell from last January to (last) March. To prevent such fires, members of the public are advised not to throw lighted materials onto grass patches, gardens and fields."
The growth in the number of vegetation fires and of fires caused by discarded items was mitigated by an 8 per cent drop in the number of fires in rubbish chutes.
The number of rubbish fires, which constitute the bulk of fires in residential premises, fell from 1,699 in 2008 to 1,561 last year.
The SCDF advised residents to prevent rubbish fires by completely extinguishing lighted and combustible materials, and avoid throwing flammable substances down rubbish chutes.
Last year, the SCDF also rapped more companies for violating the Fire Safety Act.
During the 13,252 enforcement checks it conducted, it issued 3,288 warnings to remove fire hazards.
That is an increase of 57 per cent from 2,100 in 2008.
The most common fire hazards that resulted in the warnings were the lack of maintenance of fire-fighting equipment such as hose reels, and the obstruction of exits.
The SCDF also issued 1,661 fines of between $300 and $500 for violation of the Fire Safety Act last year.
This was an increase of 65 per cent from 1,005 fines in 2008.
The main violation was the unauthorised change of use, where buildings were converted to a different use than what they were originally built for, without approval from the SCDF.
During its checks, it found, for example, carparks converted into areas for storing and processing goods.
The increase of both notices and fines could be attributed to heightened enforcement checks, and the increased number of public feedback on violations, said the SCDF.
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