Fire's third victim in tragic October
OCTOBER has been a month of raging fires and multiplying tragedies.
Yesterday, a 53-year-old man was found dead at the bottom of his Boon Lay Drive block of flats, making it the third death arising from a fire-related incident this month.
To put the number in context, there was only one fire-fuelled fatality through the whole of last year.
In the first half of this year, there wasn't a single death resulting from fire, according to statistics published by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
Early October saw life in Singapore thrown out of gear by the SingTel fire and things have only got worse since then.
In yesterday's incident, SCDF said it received a call at 2.17am regarding a fire at a 10-storey flat in Boon Lay Drive.
Firefighters had to force their way into the one-room dwelling, where a mattress in the living room was on fire. The blaze was extinguished within 10 minutes, SCDF said.
Meanwhile, a man said to be the flat's resident was found lying dead at the foot of the block. Reports said an eyewitness had seen the man fall to his death.
Earlier, on Saturday morning, a 67-year-old man died after a fire broke out in his Marine Crescent flat. The man, who was visually impaired and lived with his wife, was alone at home. Firefighters took 45 minutes to put out the blaze.
On Oct 2, a wheelchair-bound woman, 92, was killed in a fire in her one-room flat in Owen Road. Reports said the woman might have been smoking in bed.
Four residents also narrowly escaped from a fire which broke out in their one-room flat in Ang Mo Kio on Oct 18.
Based on SCDF data, there were 1,541 cases of fire involving residential premises in the first half of the year. These accounted for about seven in 10 cases of fires recorded. The bulk of the residential cases were fires in rubbish bins and chutes, accounting for 44 per cent of the incidents.
About 21 per cent of the residential fires involved discarded items at common areas such as corridors, lift lobbies, void decks and staircases.
On the Marine Crescent flat fire, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who is a Marine Parade GRC MP, said on Facebook that a meeting will be held to see how similar tragedies can be prevented.
Mr Kelvin Tan, chairman of the Boon Lay Community Emergency and Engagement Committee, said that as many as half of the residents living in the block in yesterday's incident are senior citizens.
He said many of them tend to collect and store a lot of combustible items in their one-room flats, such as recycled cardboard, which they later sell for income.
Fire-investigation consultant Tan Jin Thong said the elderly are vulnerable, because many live alone or just in pairs, and are also less nimble.
The former SCDF deputy commissioner said grassroots leaders could visit these residents and do a simple risk assessment of the potential of fire in their homes, by looking at their electrical fittings and the way they use the gas stove.
Besides claiming the lives of three people, fire also took out broadband services for 48,000 commercial and home users this month, when cables in SingTel's Bukit Panjang facility were damaged in a blaze on Oct 9.