The Interior Ministry’s Fire Department is warning people to be wary of fires as the end of Pchum Ben approaches, noting that the number of fires across the Kingdom rose by 28 percent this year, including more than double recorded during the holiday thus far.
Major General Neth Vantha, director of the Fire Department, yesterday said as the final days of Pchum Ben approach, firefighters across the Kingdom are on high alert due to the increase in fires recorded thus far.
“In almost nine months of the year, fires have occurred 556 times, an increase of 122 when compared to last year’s 434 fire cases during the same period,” Maj Gen Vantha said. “Many fire cases occurred during the first four days of Pchum Ben.”
The Fire Department recorded three fire cases occurring during the entire Pchum Ben holiday last year, but eight cases have already been recorded since September 14 this year, Maj Gen Vantha noted.
He said fires have claimed at least a dozen lives this year and left 85 others injured; 534 homes also burned down.
According to the department, 534 fire cases last year led to the deaths of 17 and injured 52 others. It noted that 553 homes and 396 stores were razed.
Maj Gen Vantha said public participation is needed to prevent fires because even though 337 fire trucks across the Kingdom are ready to be deployed, it is not easy for firefighters to reach remote areas.
“I want to appeal to monks and laymen at pagodas to look out for fires and think of safety first,” he said. “When we pay attention and be careful at all times, fire incidents will not occur. All fire department officials must continue to educate and advise the public on how to prevent and put out fires.”
“We see that fire incidents increase because the dissemination of laws on fires is not comprehensive, and it lacks cooperation from the public and the authorities,” Maj Gen Vantha added. “The main causes of fires are electrical faults and flammable substances catching fire, while many causes remain unknown.”
“We want everyone to cooperate with [firefighters] and join in the prevention of fire by buying equipment [such as extinguishers and smoke detectors] to be kept in homes and workplaces,” Maj Gen Vantha said.
In Phnom Penh, where a recent fire claimed the life of a 12-year-old boy, municipal fire department officials are focusing on preventing fires from occurring in pagodas during the last stretch of Pchum Ben.
Brigadier General Chheang Sophannara, deputy chief of municipal police in charge of the fire department, yesterday said fire trucks have been deployed to popular pagodas.
“We have one fire truck for each popular pagoda where many Buddhists come to celebrate Pchum Ben,” Brig Gen Sophannara said. “These include Ounnalom pagoda, Botumvatey, Langkar, Kol Tor Teong, Chbar Ampov, and other big pagodas in the capital.”
He noted that ten other fire trucks belonging to the municipal fire department are on standby at its headquarters to cover districts where trucks are not already stationed at pagodas.
“We do this to protect people during Pchum Ben,” Maj Gen Sophannara said. “We have 48 fire trucks ready to be used to help our people.”