Fires in build­ings un­der con­struc­tion most dif­fi­cult to tackle: KFSD Chief

90 per­cent of re­cent fires caused by weld­ing

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL - By Nawara Fat­ta­hova

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.

En­sur­ing safety

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

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