Fire safety: Ensuring that no life is lost needlessly

A 21-year-old woman died after jumping out of the window in bid to save herself from a burning shop-lot which was converted into ‘room for rent’.

By Nancy Nais

On the night of January 6, 2017, a 21-year-old woman died after jumping out the window in a bid to save herself from a burning shop-lot which was converted into a ‘room for rent’.

A fire had broken out in one of the rooms on the third floor from the corner units located at Jalan South Yu Seng, Beautiful Jade Centre, Miri at about 7pm.

Billows of orange-coloured smoke were clearly seen from the roof and a fluttering blaze quickly spread to the staircase area located next to the room where it started.

The victim, trapped in her corner room, had nowhere else to run except to jump down from the burning building.

Three others also chose to jump down, but were fortunate to have survived the ordeal.

A fire broke out at a shop-lot in Miri on January 6, 2017.

The fire burned everything in the first room where it started, rapidly spreading to the next unit through the ceiling, eventually destroying a total of six units of the third floor on that building.

Firefighters managed to control the blaze from spreading downwards to the second and first floor at 8.40pm. The whole operation ended at 2.05am hours later.

What started the fire

The cause of fire was electricity overload.

Thorough investigations by Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department (JBPM) revealed that the cause of fire was electricity overload.

At the same time, the building did not have a party wall dividing the units, prompting the fire to spread rapidly to other units through the roof.

It was also found that the room-for-rent owner had failed to comply with the notice from JBPM under Fire Service Act 1988 to eliminate a fire hazard within a given time frame by providing a “duty” pump for the hose reel system on the rooftop of his buildings. The owner had also failed to renovate the room on the top floor of the building according to the specific laws, thus posing a fire hazard.

The Fire Service Acts 1988 (Act 341) empowered JBPM to regulate and enforce the Uniform Building By-Laws 1984; while Sarawak Building Ordinance (SBO) 1994 for the state of Sarawak.

However, in the case of the above which took the life of one young woman, the shoplot was built back in 1979, way before the existence of SBO.

Ensuring strict compliance to Sarawak Building Ordinance

The building does not have any party wall in every unit partition, prompting the fire to rapidly spread to other units through the roof.

The incident shocked many, especially locals, as Malaysia and the state of Sarawak has stringent fire safety standards and requirements governing the building industry.

Recommendations were made to the shop-lot owners, stressing on the need to follow the guidelines stated under SBO and when renovations were made, particularly with additional partitions to accommodate more rooms, approval from JBPM is a must.

They were also told to constantly check the premise wiring with SESCO every 10 years and have them changed when needed.

To rebuild the burnt shoplot, they were instructed to strictly comply with SBO, particularly in building party walls as it will slow down the speed in the event of fire again.

Even though many people are aware of the importance of fire safety, many remain ‘blur’ or choose to ignore it and take no action.

How long are we going continue acting or living dangerously like this – until another disaster happens?

Watch out for Part 2 – Role of Engineering at JBPM Fire and Safety Division (BKK)