Dealing with the fiery issue

Residents of Samdrupjongkhar woke up to the news of yet another house lost to a fire incident.

Luckily, there were no casualties this time.

On the same night last year, Samdrupjongkhar lost an eight-year-old boy to a similar house fire. The boy died when the semi-permanent house he was living in was razed to the ground in Jomotshangkha.

The universal trend with such incidents is that they occur at night. It is what makes containment a herculean task. Thanks to the volunteers and the armed force personnel in Dewathang, the fire was controlled in time before it caught on to nearby structures. They prevented a family from losing two houses in a matter of a few hours.

The Dewathang house fire is typical of the many that occur in the country year after year. If the place had better fire fighting equipment or better-trained fire fighting residents, the devastation could have been less severe. Despite many fire mishaps every year, most of our homes don’t even have a basic fire extinguisher. We are still bent on combating the fires with buckets and jugs.

More than Nu 1.5 million worth of construction materials were lost to the fire. Worse still, the house was not insured. Such mishaps forced many a building owner from riches to rags. Some drowned in heavy debt. Being pennywise, we try to save not investing in insurance as a result we lose pounds aplenty. 

Even as the news of the fire in Dewathang was settling in among the residents, another massive fire razed structures to ground in the other extreme end of the country. The fire in Paro yesterday evening, like many others before it, is suspected to have caused by an electric short circuit.

A major problem, albeit a complex one, is the poor quality of electrical wiring in our homes. Most house fires are either proven or suspected to be caused by electrical short circuits. And the trend is not improving.

Building contractors still give in to the pressure of cutting costs and enhance their profit margins by using substandard materials.

We need a quality control mechanism in the construction business coupled with strict monitoring for electrical wiring and other aspects of housing, public or private. Otherwise, the risks are clear.

With the dry winters, strong afternoon winds, a high percentage of wood used in constructions, poor wiring, and the rapidly clustering houses, Bhutanese towns comprise perfect ingredients for a major tragedy.

In Bhutan, the frequency of fires warrants an unrelenting campaign in both the urban and rural areas. If we cannot invest to fight them, there is no other way but to prevent them no matter the cost.

We know that the Paro fire will not be the last. Judging by the conditions, there will be many more. 

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