The number of fire incidents along with extent of property damage and fatalities caused by the fire incidents has increased alarmingly over the last two and a half decades.
A total of 24,102 fire incidents occurred across the country in 2022, while the number was 21,601 in 2021.
At least 85 people were killed and 377 others wounded in fire incidents in 2022, whereas 219 were killed and 570 others injured in 2021, according to a report prepared by the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence (BFSCD).
A total of 2,404 people were killed and 12,499 others wounded in fire incidents during the period between 2006 and 2022, as per the BFSCD data.
It showed that some 5,376 fire incidents took place in 1996, while it stood at 24,102 in 2022. Some 90,850 incidents took place in the last four years from 2019 to 2022.
A total of 253,048 fire incidents occurred from 1996 to 2018, causing a loss of property worth about Tk 64.23 billion.
In 1996, the loss of property was estimated at Tk 633.9 million, while it jumped to nearly Tk 3.42 billion in 2022, the data showed.
The extent of property damage stood at Tk 3.42 billion and 2.18 billion in 2022 and 2021 respectively, while it was Tk 3.30 billion and Tk 2.46 billion in 2019 and 2020 respectively. The country witnessed 19,642 fire incidents in 2018 and incurred a loss of Tk 3.85 billion.
Electrical short circuit and fire from burners, ignited cigarette butts and burning ashes were cited as major causes of fire in residential and industrial buildings across the country.
Electrical short circuit resulted in 9,275 fire incidents or 38.48 per cent of all fires across the country in 2022. Cigarette butts sparked 3,878 fires (16.08 per cent) last year, according to the BFSCD data.
In 2021, short circuit caused 7,955 fires or 36.82 per cent of the total incidents. Cigarette butts triggered some 3,179 incidents (14.78 per cent).
Brig Gen (retd) Ali Ahmed Khan, former director general (DG) of the BFSCD, who is also a disaster and emergency risk management specialist, called for further empowering and strengthening the fire department.
The number of buildings along with high-rise structures is increasing, which are full of electrical and electronic equipment. But the owners of these buildings remain indifferent to ensure fire safety measures due to lack of accountability, he said.
Besides, a large quantity of substandard fire safety gears is being sold in the market without any monitoring and regulation, triggering risk of fatalities. The government should take steps to stop such sale at any cost to curb fire incidents in the coming days, he added.
Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Tajul Islam Chowdhury, Director (Operation and Mainte-nance), Fire Service and Civil Defence Directorate, stressed the need for proper coordination among all the stakeholders to curb fire incidents as well as reduce fatalities and property losses.
The BFSCD is taking required preventive measures, including massive awareness-building initiatives, to address such incidents, he told the FE.
To a great extent, the fire-fighters do not get appropriate information during the fire incidents, as the fire-hit structure owners unlawfully store various chemical or flammable materials inside those buildings.
Describing the BM Inland Container Depot inferno in the port-city, he said the fatalities, including those of fire-fighters, increased drastically during the accident due to unavailability of proper information. Over population and unplanned urbanisation are also responsible for massive fire incidents, Mr Tajul noted.To check recurrence of such incidents, he emphasised abiding by existing building safety plan and all relevant provisions.