Fire incidents are growing.

Tsirang recently conducted a door-to-door awareness campaign covering more than 400 households in the dzongkhag’s five fire-prone gewogs.

Such campaigns must also be conducted in other dzongkhags because of the increasing threat during the dry season – from December to March.

Human carelessness is the main cause of fire accidents in the country.

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

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

When we talk about fire accidents, it is not just forest fires that we should focus on. Incidents of house fires are also rising. A growing concern today is the fire outbreaks in villages and the rapidly growing settlements.

Unprofessional wiring is a major problem in both rural and urban parts of the country. It is no surprise 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. Therefore, care should receive precedence over convenience.

The Forest and Nature Conservation Act 1995 prohibits any fire in government forests, irrespective of forest type and vegetation sensitive to fire. The National Forest Policy of Bhutan 2011 prohibits fire in fire-sensitive ecosystems but allows the use of fire as a management tool in fire-adapted ecosystems.

In 2017, under the Royal Command, the first interagency SOP was formulated and various initiatives were implemented in Thimphu. An inter-agency forest fire coordinating group was formed for Thimphu consisting of members from the authorities concerned.

However, the focus of the group, which every dzongkhag, town, and village must have, should also equally be on preventing house fire incidents.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said recently that as much as it is an individual responsibility, the government should render all the required assistance. “For the 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.”

That BPC is taking skilling programme for the village electricians is good news.  The programme must be intensified.

Awareness is important but we should also have mechanisms to ensure fire safety.