The number of fire incidents in Bangladesh has increased four times over the last two decades as the country’s urban areas are expanding without basic infrastructure like fire stations.
According to data provided by the Fire Service and Civil Defence, around 285,000 fires occurred in the country between January 1, 1999 and December 31, 2020.
These fire incidents also caused an estimated financial loss of around Tk6,900 crore to the nation.
Besides, at least 2,308 people were killed in fires across the country between 2004 and 2020, the fire service data shows.
The year 2019 saw the highest number of 24,074 fire incidents while 2020 the second highest of 21,073.
Urban experts attributed the rise in fire incidents to unplanned urbanization, the violation of rules for constructing buildings, a pervasive culture of non-enforcement of the law, carelessness of people, increased use of gas cylinders and different electronic devices and lack of supervision by the authorities concerned.
They also said people in the capital and other major cities of the country are at the high risk of fires for lack of proper urban fire safety systems.
The experts suggested taking immediate initiatives to ensure safety compliance of city buildings like the garment factories and raising public awareness to significantly reduce the number of fires.
Three major causes
As per the statistics of the Fire Service and Civil Defence, around 99,752 fires occurred in the country between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2020.
Of them, 71,684 or over 71 percent of fires originated from electric disturbances, different types of burners and burning cigarettes in the last five years.
Of the total incidents, 37,044 (37 percent) originated from electric disturbances while 19,124 (19.17 percent) from different types of burners and 15,536 (15.57 percent) from burning cigarettes.
Contacted, Prof Mehedi Ahmed Ansari of the Civil Engineering department at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) said electric short-circuit is the main reason behind the rise in fire incidents in urban areas as most buildings are not constructed maintaining the building code.
He said other reasons for the fire are associated with people’s lack of awareness. “An effective campaign to raise public awareness in this regard should be launched across the country.”
The expert said electric equipment should be inspected periodically to reduce the chances of fire.