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The Star 17/01/2001

Kuala Lumpur : Malaysians are generally unaware of fire safety because of their tidak apa attitude (apathy).

City Fire and Rescue Department Director Leonard Athanasius said education on fire safety was more important than having the best fire fighting equipment.

He also expressed regret over the low turn-out in residential areas when fire and rescue personnel when to neighbourhoods to train residents on fire safety and prevention techniques.

“We hold many campaigns on safety and prevention but accidental fires due to carelessness still occur”.

“Only when something happens do the residents actively become involved”, Athanasius told a press conference yesterday.

Athanasius also touched on Sunday’s incident where five family members died in a pre-dawn fire at City Hall’s Sri Kelantan flats in Sentul.

He said the department was still investigating the cause of fire which claimed taxi driver A. Kaleeswaran, 42, wife M. Tamilchelvi, 40, a clerk and their daughters, Shubashini, 17, Gayathri, 15 and Daiyahni, 12.

“We have personnel from the operations, training and enforcement divisions investigating the incident”, he said.

City Fire and Rescue Department public relations officer Asst. Supt Mahinder Singh said preliminary investigations revealed that the fire was caused accidentally.

Mahinder Singh said the initial report suggested that the victims could not escape and were trapped during the blaze.

He later showed reporters a training video to describe how the fire could swept through the premises.

The video revealed that a small fire lighted on a sofa in a living room can be engulfed in flames and emit thick smoke within three minutes.

According to Mahinder Singh, the first 90 seconds were important because it was within this time that the fire could be easily extinguished or the victims could plan their escape.

“In most instances, the danger is when the victims are asleep and unaware until it’s too late”, he said.

Mahinder Singh said that an early warning system, like a smoke detector, could help.

He urged the public to place more importance on fire safety and prevention techniques.


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