Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — City authorities have acknowledged several lacunae in the Fire Fighting Department, including the lack of qualified personnel and inadequate planning for future contingencies.
The acknowledgement came as the chairwoman of the HCM City People’s Council asked the city’s Fire Fighting Department to work with relevant agencies on drastically improving fire prevention and fighting services.
Nguyễn Thị Quyết Tâm made her request at a meeting on fire-fighting held in the city on Wednesday.
She said the department must be proactive in preventing fires from happening while improving response capacity. This has a role to play in people’s safety as well as ensuring a safe environment for businesses and investors in the city, she said.
Tâm said the meeting should discuss challenges and clarify responsibilities of agencies and residents in fire fighting.
Lê Tấn Bửu, Director of the HCM City Fire Fighting Department, acknowledged that their work should be more effective. He also said that State management had been poor, citing a lack of co-ordination and networking among agencies involved.
There were several other problems, Bửu said, including the lack of properly qualified people as well as poorly maintained water hydrants.
Bửu said the city needed nearly 19,000 water hydrants, but had only 8,740; and 113 of these were in bad shape.
Many companies and other establishments failed to abide by fire safety regulations, but relevant agencies did not have the resources to enforce compliance, he said, noting that the city had around 300,000 businesses and family-run enterprises, but the Fire Fighting Department had been able to manage only 28,000 businesses.
Households that run businesses at home and are not managed by the fire-fighting department are at high risk of fires, according to Bửu. Many that have failed to comply with fire safety regulations are not even aware of the dangers they face.
Many small houses at high risk of catching a fire are located in tiny and deep alleys in the city, posing challenges for fire fighting forces to access.
Many houses do not have any rear exit, and this has been the cause of many deaths when fires occur.
Lives at risk
Thousands of lives are at risk because many apartment buildings in HCM City have failed to meet fire safety standards, Bửu said.
In many old buildings, fire prevention and control systems have deteriorated, but have not been fixed or replaced.
Several newly-built apartment buildings have not implemented fire safety measures, and residents are in danger.
Fire-fighting in high-rise buildings is a challenging task because the department is not adequately equipped or trained.
Bửu said firefighters struggled to fight fires in increasingly tall buildings.
The biggest fire truck ladders can only reach the 18th floor of a building. In many cases, the ladders can only reach the 15th floor, according to the director.
Bửu said HCM City has more than 1,000 apartment complexes with more than five floors, with 605 having more than 10 floors.
The department’s development long-term development plans (2025) do not cover the purchase of essential equipment for fighting fires in high-rises.
Đỗ Phi Hùng, deputy director of the city’s Department of Construction, said that last year, his office worked with the Fire Fighting Department to inspect 20 big apartment buildings at high risk of fire and found many residents had not complied with fire safety regulations.
The department asked the district authorities to inspect all the buildings again and strictly punish violations, he said.
It would also ask the Ministry of Construction to include fire safety standards in the licences given to construct buildings, he added.
According to the Fire Fighting Department, 60 per cent of fire cases in the city have been caused by electricity problems, especially short circuits. Last year, 1,960 fires broke out in the city, up nearly 29 per cent over the previous year. Nine people died and 36 others were injured. Damage to property was estimated at VNĐ260 billion (US$11.458 million).
In the first quarter of this year, the city saw 485 fires that killed 19 people and injured as many.
The Fire Fighting Department has cautioned that the number of fires can rise in the remaining part of the year, especially in residential areas where households run various businesses. — VNS