The March 20 fire accident in Tsenkari, Nganglam came as a rude reminder to all of us. If we are a little more careful, disasters that destroy properties and lives and cause untold pains can be prevented.

In the recent times we have witnessed many towns and settlements destroyed by dangerous fire. We haven’t forgotten fire disasters in 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.

The fire in Tsenkari razed 14 temporary sheds to the ground and left 19 families homeless. Although no major casualties were reported, shops were destroyed and school-going children were affected. The affected families had to put up in temporary sheds that the Royal Bhutan Army and the volunteers help build. Immediate help came from drungkhag administration by way of providing meals and emergency kits, among others.

While we appreciate the efforts of the volunteers, we need to ask what caused the fire? It is suspected that an electric short circuit, as always, caused the fire. Most fire accidents in Bhutanese houses start from electric short circuit. This could be because most 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 in the remote corners have safe wiring. Spending a little more money on safety aspects of wiring can greatly minimise the risks.

Homeowners and communities at large should take the responsibility, because one bad wiring somewhere can cause damage to all, especially in clustered settlements like in Tsenkari, Wamrong and Chamkhar. 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.

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. How expensive are these measures, really?