The Fire Division, Royal Bhutan Police, received 18 house fire cases in the country, out of which 9 cases were registered within Thimphu, in the first quarter of 2018. Similarly, a total of 6 cases of forest fire were recorded.
Likewise, in 2017, the division received 26 cases of forest fire, out of which 12 incidents took place in Thimphu. In addition, the division has recorded 75 incidence of both major and minor house fire nationwide in 2017.
Of 75 registered house fire cases, 30 took place within Thimphu, whereby 7 incidents were labeled as major, and two deaths were reported due to smoke inhalation.
Officials from the fire division said an electrical short circuit, butter lamp light, LPG leakage, candle light and malfunctioning electronic appliances are the common causes of house fire.
The Police said that they have started a widespread intensive awareness and sensitization program on fire prevention this year. “We are going door to door, place to place, and some of the targeted places, which means we target a place or settlement near to forest for sensitization,” a police official said.
In addition, the police meet and interact with the people who are known to burn waste or debris from orchards in open space. They are advised to avoid burning the agricultural debris and other waste. “We are trying to reach the mass, and we are doing so on a daily basis, whereby in four months time, we could cover a good number of houses and areas,” the official added.
The official also said that they could reduce the number of incidence, drastically this winter, particularly in Thimphu, and they are seeing a positive output from their preventive measures.
“We are really restricting open fires, and whenever we see any smoke coming out, we visit and make them to extinguish the fire on the spot. Though we do not penalize anyone involving in putting on fire in open space, henceforth, we will penalize with a warning at first,” the official said. The official said there is a zero tolerance to waste burning in open space.
Meanwhile, the division is facing various challenges while fighting with both forest and house fires. The main challenge comes when there are simultaneous fire incidences, both forest fire and house fire, occurring at a time. The official said that at such times, due to limited resources and man power, they can’t give 100 percent effort in fighting the fires.
The fire division prioritizes firefighting effort around settlements to save lives and properties. “There are incidences where due to forest fire, a few houses were raised to the ground,” the official added.
Road accessibility is another challenge said the official. They are unable to reach the fire spot due to no road access, but they have been trying their best to reach the place, at any cost, in coordination with other relevant stakeholders.
There are 8 fire engine vehicles in Thimphu and 52 fire engine vehicles nationwide that help the firefighters in putting out the fires.