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Dhaka Tribune

Why are fire incidents increasing in Bangladesh?

  • January saw 2,372 fire incidents, while February witnessed 3,000 fires this year
  • Data shows a continuous rise in the number of fires each year
Update : 28 Mar 2024, 04:36 PM

Statistics from the Fire Service and Civil Defence show incidents involving fires have been on the rise in Bangladesh over the past few years, indicating a lack of effective preventive measures.

These incidents have been reported throughout the country, particularly in Dhaka, resulting in significant losses of both lives and properties.

Based on the fire service statistics, January saw 2,372 fire incidents, while February witnessed 3,000 fires this year.

Comparatively, January 2023 recorded 2,646 fires nationwide, followed by 2,713 fires in February of the same year.

The year 2022 experienced 2,276 fire incidents in January and 2,609 in February.

In January 2021, there were 2,241 fire incidents reported across the country, with February witnessing 2,373 fires. 

A fire breaks out in the warehouse of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) in Narayanganj city on Saturday, February 3, 2024. Photo: Fire Media Cell

Throughout the entire year of 2021, the country witnessed a total of 21,601 fire incidents. 

Subsequently, in 2022, this number increased to 24,102; in 2023, it surged further to 27,624 fire incidents.

These statistics from the fire service indicate a continuous rise in the number of fires each year.

According to the fire service, several factors are contributing to this alarming trend, including not following building codes during construction, disregarding fire service policies, and using highly flammable materials in building decoration.

They have also listed the installation of low-quality and cheap electrical cables and the absence of a fire safety plan among the reasons as well.

Meanwhile, it was seen that in most fire cases, probe bodies are only formed for significant incidents. 

On top of that, in most cases, the probe bodies do not submit their reports on time. Consequently, the timely identification and listing of the underlying causes behind the fires become challenging.

On April 4, 2023, a fire broke out at Bangabazar market, Four other establishments adjacent to the market were also affected by the fire.

On April 11 of that year, a probe body formed by Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) over the fire identified that the fire originated from either a mosquito coil or a cigarette on the third floor of the market.

Another probe body formed by the fire service also said the fire originated from a mosquito coil.

On April 15 of the same year, 226 shops were gutted in a fire at Dhaka New Super Market. 

According to the market owners' association, the fire caused a loss of Tk350 crore. 

According to the fire service investigation committee, the fire broke out due to an electrical fault (short circuit).

Investigations have confirmed that the fire was caused due to the use of substandard electrical equipment and a lack of regular supervision.

Meanwhile, the fire service said in a report in 2023 that electrical faults are the major cause of fires in the country. 

In 2022, 38% of the 24,102 fire incidents were caused by electrical faults. 

Firefighters are seen working to douse the fire at SA Alam’s sugar mill at Moijjartek in Chittagong on Monday, March 4, 2024. Photo: Fire Media Cell

In the latest major fire incident in Dhaka’s Bailey Road, a total of 46 people were killed.

The fire that broke out at Green Cozy Cottage on February 29 this year. 

The initial investigation of the incident revealed a lack of basic fire safety systems in the building, along with the presence of numerous flammable materials. 

What experts say

Shahjahan Sikder, deputy assistant director of the Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) said investigation committees are usually formed to probe major fire incidents and the media is informed about it. 

Apart from this, in most cases, the media is not informed of the committees for the sake of investigation. 

He added that individuals seeking information about the investigation committee would need to submit a specified fee to the Information Commissioner, as per the protocol outlined by the fire service.

The undated image shows firefighters working to extinguish Bangabazar flames in Dhaka. Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Meanwhile, former Fire Service and Civil Defence director (Operation) and disaster management specialist Major (retd) AKM Shakil said: “In our country, most buildings are designed by not following rules. People do not even take the fire service’s advice.”

He added that most of the things that are used for decoration inside the building are flammable materials. This includes poor-quality electrical cables, the substitution of Partex for wood, as well as the widespread use of aluminum and melamine, all of which pose fire hazards.

Even modern kitchens, while designed with contemporary features, often incorporate flammable materials extensively in their decoration, the official said.

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