Fires in buildings under construction most difficult to tackle: KFSD Chief
90 percent of recent fires caused by welding
Director General of the Kuwait Fire Service Directorate (KFSD) Lieutenant General Khalid Al-Mikrad yesterday said the most difficult blazes firefighters deal with are in buildings under construction, as they cannot determine the cause of the fire. “These fires are also very dangerous as firefighters have to go inside the building if the blaze is hard to reach, especially if the project is a huge one, as fire spreads quickly,” he said during a symposium by KFSD titled ‘Safety in Buildings Under Construction’ yesterday.
KFSD aimed to increase prevention of fires at buildings under construction though this symposium. “We aim to have a unified vision which will protect lives and properties. Public institutions should cooperate with us to exploit previous experiences to protect all private and public projects,” Mikrad said. He explained that if the fire is large, it will pose a danger to the surrounding area and may spread to other buildings. “The Sharq fire caused more fires, which confused firefighters who were dealing with six fires in one place. Also, if the wind is strong, the blaze might get out of their control,” he noted.
According to him, the main reasons behind the fires are human errors and neglecting safety and security measures. “Ninety percent of the fires that took place recently were caused by cutting metal and welding inside the project area. Our reports are purely technical that are issued based on evidence. If the fire is deliberate, then we will announce it, but the recent fires happened due to cutting and welding, due to which hot sparks fell on inflammable materials, according to surveillance cameras,” he concluded.
There are various reasons behind fires, so there should be strict laws to protect lives and properties under construction. “These laws should be strictly applied against violators and to avoid committing the same mistake again. Also, I suggest having safety and security departments in all ministries and state institutions according to the municipality law to ensure the implementation of safety and security measures,” pointed out Ahmad Al-Manfouhi, Director General of the Municipality.
Deputy General Manager for the Prevention Sector Brig Khaled Fahad stressed that prevention is better than firefighting as the expenses of applying safety measures is much lower than the cost of the losses due to accidents. “The losses from fires are great, especially if workers die or are injured. It takes a long time to replace the injured workers and train new ones, which will delay the project. In addition, investigations at the police, fire department and insurance companies take time. Also, damage to the building and tools all lead to distrust in the contractors,” he said.
Naser Khreibit, Deputy Director General of the Public Authority for Housing Welfare for Planning and Designing Affairs, said the planning and designing phase of the project should adopt measures that ensure safety. “The instructions of the engineering office should be followed, starting from preparing the documents of the project, which obliges the contractor to use the latest safety and security tools,” he noted.
Khreibit gave an example of the South Mutlaa City housing project under construction now. “This project will house around 30,000 families and is in the execution phase. KD 4.5 million is being paid in housing allowances monthly. If a fire occurs in this project, the losses will be very high, especially with the delay. So safety criteria should be very strict, and this includes fire detectors,” he highlighted. Futuh Al-Asfour, Secretary General of the Federation of Kuwaiti Engineering Offices and Consultant Houses, noted that engineering offices play a great role that is neglected by many institutions that are responsible for the safety and security of buildings under construction. “I suggest forming a committee that will force the engineering offices to set criteria for executing companies, and find qualified offices to supervise safety and security measures,” she explained.
“Cutting and welding should take place outside the working area. Also, bank deposits are not enough to cover losses caused by fires, especially if there are fatalities, so this should be reviewed. Furthermore, consultants should have the right to report mistakes or shortages in the constructor’s work regarding safety and security to the municipality,” Asfour stressed.
KUWAIT: Ahmad Al-Manfouhi, Director General of the Municipality (center left) speaks during a symposium that also hosted Director General of the Kuwait Fire Service Directorate Lieutenant General Khalid Al-Mikrad (center right) and other officials.
—Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat