Lack of fire safety awareness prevails all over
An investigation committee was formed on Thursday to look into Wednesday night's fire at a polythene factory located in the capital's Lalbagh area. The three-member committee has been asked to submit its report within seven working days. However, the recent spree of fire incidents once more echo the sad truth - despite issuing of repeated warnings - fire safety has been treated with a bewildering nonchalance. And that's not all - number of fire disasters has increased more than threefold across Bangladesh since 1997.
Fire Service and Civil Defence statistics showed that around 250,000 fires occurred in the country between January 1, 1997 and December 31, 2018, according to the online database titled Dataful. These fires also caused an estimated financial loss of around Tk6, 400 crore to the nation. At least 1,970 people were killed in around 200,000 fires across the country between 2004 and 2018, according to available fire service data.
Urban experts attribute the sharp rise in fires to unplanned urbanization, the violation of rules for constructing buildings, carelessness among the public, increased use of gas cylinders and devices, plus a lack of supervision by the authorities concerned. Usually fires are triggered by an electric short-circuit, gas and other burners, cigarettes, gas cylinders, technological devices, inflammable objects, or chemicals. Sometimes, miscreants set fire to houses or shops-and other establishments-out of animosity. In many cases, the public's callousness and lack of awareness are responsible for fires.
The use of gas cylinders in vehicles, houses, and restaurants has now become a major worry and the government should increase its monitoring in this regard to tackle the problem. The government will have to intensify its disaster management and prevention activities in urban areas-as well as launch a countrywide campaign-to raise awareness about the causes of fire.
Additionally, a lack of awareness among the people, a lack of monitoring by the authorities concerned a lack of the enforcement of laws, the storing and use of inflammable chemicals in an unsafe way, and the weakness of city governance are other reasons behind the increase in fires.
Improving the city governance skills, strict enforcement of laws and rules and regulations, making people aware about urban life and the use of technology, increasing the capacity of the fire department, and creating trained civilian manpower to provide services, in case of any fire, are also necessary.