KUCHING, Jan 13: The state Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) has spent over RM3.2 million in the last eight years to repair broken fire hydrants due to vandalism.
Among the major damage were incidents involving main components of the fire hydrant pillars, chambers, and broken and buried spindle valves.
State Bomba director Khirudin Drahman in a statement said, last year, a total of 11,434 damage incidents were recorded, an increase of 63 per cent against incidents recorded in 2017, which totalled 6,898.
The damage was mainly caused by theft and vandalism.
A total of 8,006 units of missing metal chamber covers, outlet caps and damaged threads were recorded in the last eight years.
“Repairs to minor damage including cleaning and painting are done by own firefighters who go around to check on them,” Khirudin said when contacted.
Major repairs such as for broken hydrants or damaged valves are carried out by contractors approved by Kuching Water Board.
He said there are two types of hydrants: public ones which are red colour while those privately owned are yellow colour.
Private hydrants are usually located at industrial premises, factories or private residential areas.
Among the steps taken by the department’s task force to lessen vandalism are prioritising the repair of hydrants located near residential areas for easy monitoring as well as conducting periodic checks.
“The department takes this as a serious issue because fire hydrants are the main source of water when fires occur. In order to curb vandalism and prevent damage to fire hydrants, the department has been actively introducing its Friends of Fire Hydrants (FoFH) initiative.
“We engaged with the local communities in their respective areas to join this initiative by educating them on the importance of fire hydrants, to ensure that the hydrants are in good condition and usable at any time especially during emergencies,” Khirudin said.
As of 2018, the department has about 8,798 volunteers who adopted 32,296 public fire hydrants across the state, meaning less than 30 per cent of hydrants have ‘friends’ to watch over them.
“Our target to get the hydrants adopted is 50 per cent by end of 2020,” he added.
Last month, Khirudin had called upon more people in the community to offer themselves as FoFH.
“We asked that communities help take care of their neighbourhood fire hydrants as fire fighters often encounter problematic fire hydrants which are vandalised, causing problems especially during an emergency. We hope that the ‘FoFH’ initiative will raise awareness towards this issue.”
Among the other roles of FoFH, apart from being the guardians for Bomba, is to ensure that no vehicles are parked on the side of or over the fire hydrants, there is no rubbish or building materials such as sand, wood, iron, cement or others that will be an obstacle for firefighters to access the hydrants, and ensure that fire hydrants are not destroyed by any road repair or paving work.
Those who are found deliberately vandalising fire hydrants can be investigated under Section 26 of Fire Services Act 1988 and liable to a fine of RM200.
Offenders who fail to pay the compound may be charged under Section 58 of the same Act, and liable to a fine of not more than RM5,000 or imprisonment for not more than three years or both. — DayakDaily