Burned to death in tube-house fires

Firefighters will never forget the haunting moments they witnessed at a fire on April 4 at a diaper and dairy product trading house in HCM City in which four people died.

Burned to death in tube-house fires

They entered the house full of flames while spraying water in an effort to extinguish the fire and lower the temperature, which was 800-1,000oC.

The first two dead bodies were found – the father, over 80 years old, and his son-in-law. It took the firefighter a lot of time and effort to find the other two people who were killed – Hong, a pregnant woman, and her 10-year old daughter.

"We saw the mother and daughter lying down hugging each other, and the girl’s face was on the mother's chest," Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Minh Thanh, Deputy Head of the Dong Da District Police, recalled.

Recent fires at so-called tube (tall and narrow) houses, have caused panic among local residents.

On February 4, five young men, while burning offerings after worshipping Kitchen God, caused a fire which burned down a house and killed four people on the days just before Tet.

A fire on March 30 in HCM City killed six family members, and three people died in a fire on March 25 in district 8 in HCM City.

Most recently, a fire on Ton Duc Thang street in Hanoi killed four people.

In Hanoi, 112 fires occurred in the first quarter of this year alone, including three big fires and four fires causing serious consequences, 42 medium sized fires, and 55 small fires, killing seven people and injuring 13.

In Hanoi, 112 fires occurred in the first quarter of this year alone, including three big fires and four fires causing serious consequences, 42 medium sized fires, and 55 small fires, killing seven people and injuring 13.

According to the Fire Prevention, Fighting and Rescue Police Department under the Ministry of Public Security, 618 fires were reported nationwide in the first quarter, including 573 civil cases, killing a total of 16 and injuring 30 people.

The police said that fires in residential quarters and tube houses that serve both trading and accommodation purposes caused the serious death toll.

Licensers ‘forget’ fire-prevention rules

Burned to death in tube-house fires

Many people in large cities live in tube houses. People who build houses have to obtain licenses from appropriate agencies. But most of them don’t care about designing exits used to escape emergencies, even though many tragic fires, with no survivors, have occurred.

The Hanoi Construction Department said this attitude exists because, under current laws, only construction works (hotels, guesthouses, or lodging facilities) with five or more floors with total usable area of over 5,000 cubic meters have to have exit ways for fire fighting. Detached tube houses are not required to have them.

As a result, residents in urban areas, where land is very valuable, try to use every square centimeter of land for accommodation purposes, and neglect fire prevention and fighting items.

 

Fire prevention and fighting regulations exist in laws, decrees and circulars, and there are national standards. However, the standards on detached houses are lacking or are vague.

Senior Lieutenant Do Anh Quyen, Deputy Head of Tu Liem district Police, said local authorities, especially licensing and construction work management agencies, should set requirements for fire exits when considering tube house design.

Construction work in cities should ensure that buildings all have emergency exits. In many residential quarters, because of limited financial capability, many people put things on stairs which block the exits and easily allow fires to spread.

In most of the fires that caused deaths, the major reason was the lack of emergency exits. Some people could not even run to the balcony to shout for help.

Quyen said that people still neglect building emergency exits because it is not obligatory under current laws.

Early fire-warning technology

According to architect Tran Tuan Anh, CEO of Topdesign, detached houses, especially tube houses, need to be designed with many doors. In addition to windows and openings for ventilation, it would be better to have emergency exits or access at the front of every floor, and the attic.

One of the biggest concerns is that exits may expose homeowners to burglars or criminals. The problem, according to Quyen, can be solved with different methods, including fingerprint locks or electronic locks. If the electricity is cut, or if homeowners panic and cannot find their keys, they can open the doors with their fingerprint.

Also, he suggested installing the kind of door that can be opened only from the inside, not from the outside.

In some countries, people also have steel staircases that can drop down when homeowners need to use them and then roll back up.

Using 4.0 smart technologies in fire prevention and fighting will also be a wise solution to minimize risks to people’s assets and lives.

The technologies will allow homeowners to discover fire thanks to early fire alert systems. The alerts will be delivered to many people via messages, mobile phone calls and mobile apps, and to the nearest firefighting stations.

MobiFone Global has recently announced the development of a wireless automatic fire alert system on 4G and 5G platforms. When there is a sign of fire, audible alerts are immediately given at supervision points and information is sent to the command system. 

Le Dung - Nguyen Le

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