A fire accident in Thimphu yesterday rendered six families homeless. Although no casualties were reported, it was a reminder that if we are not careful accidents like this can be disastrous and painful.

The Royal Bhutan Police, Desuups, and volunteers who helped douse the fire deserve our commendations.  But there is a need to ask some serious questions. This time too, like each time there is a fire accident, electric short circuit got the blame. If we are a little more careful, disasters that destroy properties and lives and cause untold pains can be prevented.

Bhutanese homes have unsafe wiring. If electric short circuit is the major cause of fire accidents, it is time we explored ways to make sure our settlements, homes and office and lhakhangs have safe wiring. Spending a little more on safety aspects of wiring can greatly minimise the risks.

We haven’t forgotten fire accident that damaged Gasa Dzong, Wangdue Dzong, Wamrong town in Trashigang, Sarpang town, and the repeated fire accidents in Chamkhar town in Bumthang.  People are still struggling to rebuild their homes and lives.

In the bigger towns like Thimphu and Phuentsholing, people living on the fringes take power through unsafe wiring. In the labourer’s camps, the picture is the same. Wires can be seen in tangled lumps, dangling ominously overhead. These can spark off major disaster anytime. With rising inflation, people who are not able to afford decent housing in the cities and towns are forced to live in temporary sheds.

Royal Audit Authority’s fire safety report paints a very unflattering picture of our security and safety initiatives, particularly in the dzongs and public offices. Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) personnel operating smoke detecting devices and alarm systems in the dzongs are inadequately trained to understand even the basic functions of the devices.  The report warns that the rising number of users has far crossed the capacity of the wiring, thus, posing risk of short circuit.

We can have stringent routine of monitoring power lines in homes. Regular advocacy and education will go a long way in minimising the risk of fire disasters.

These are viable measures.