We have been talking about the dangers of fire accidents and incidences since the onset of the dry season.

Sadly, it has been all talk and no action.

Yesterday, Thimphu had to fight three fire cases. Last week, a fire accident razed six units of the newly constructed staff quarters of the Gidakom Hospital.

In January, Haa lost over 1,000 acres of forest to wildfire. In Dagana, just a few weeks ago, a fire accident killed a man and his four-month-old daughter.

The door-to-door fire awareness campaign does not seem to work. We still have a long way to go until the dry season is gone for good.

Human carelessness is one of the main causes of fire accidents in the country.

A global study reckons that improperly-extinguished campfires, unsmothered cigarette butts, arson, and improperly-burnt debris are responsible for about 85 percent of wildfire cases.

According to a record, there have been more than 1,400 forest fire incidents in Bhutan in the last 10 years. And, about 99 percent of fires were anthropogenic (originating due to human activity) in nature and occurred during the winter.

What we must bear in mind is that when we talk about fire accidents, it is not just forest fires that we should focus on. A growing concern today is the fire outbreaks in villages and rapidly growing settlements.

Unprofessional and careless wiring is a major problem in both rural and urban parts of the country. It is no surprise, therefore, that we always blame fire incidents on short circuits.

Firefighters and volunteers can do only so much. Often, even with timely intervention, unfortunate incidents bring untold challenges to families and households; care should receive precedence over convenience.

This is not happening.

The Forest and Nature Conservation Act 1995 prohibits any fire in government forests, irrespective of forest type and vegetation sensitive to fire. 

But then, how?

The National Forest Policy of Bhutan 2011 prohibits fire in fire-sensitive ecosystems but allows the use of fire as management tools in fire-adapted ecosystems.

When it comes to the dangers of fire accidents, there should be a blanket rule—fire-sensitive ecosystems or otherwise.

But, more importantly, our problem today is not just wildfires. That is where we need to shift our attention to. Bhutan Power Corporation and the thromde, in the case of Thimphu, should take the lead to ensure safety against the possibility of fire accidents.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering has said that as much as it is an individual responsibility, the government should render all the required assistance to the sectors to combat fire accidents. “For homes, we must ensure the quality of wiring and appliances, availability of electricians in that community, professionalism of the technicians, and adherence to minimum standards.”

Is this happening?