Old fire-fighting engines, limited water hydrants and failure to implement fire safety measures in the capital are some of the challenges for the Royal Bhutan Police’s (RBP) fire service division.

This was shared at the Thimphu thromde committee meeting on October 16, while presenting the risk assessment report by various stakeholders.

In 2015, 19 fire cases were reported due to faulty electrical system, which increased to 24 in 2016. Home heating appliances, juvenile fire setting, kitchen fire while cooking and butter lamp were causes of fire incidents. However, sources of fire for 74 cases reported last year were unknown.

A RBP official said that escape routes, fire preventative measures such as sprinkler system, hydrant system, gas suppression system and gas leakage detector can help save life and property. “There are rules such as Bhutan Building Rules 2002 but monitoring needs to be done when a house is built.”

Officials said that the risks of fire in Thimphu have increased because of low quality electrical wires, lack of smoke alarms, lack of ignition resistant household materials and inspection of the electrical circuit.

The RBP official said that in Thimphu, 18 houses were damaged due to fire last year most of which occurred in the core area of the city. “Most of the fire incidents are in huts, temporary settlements, labour camps and makeshift kitchen.”

He added that in Thimphu, the houses in Hongkong Market, Norzin Lam area and temporary settlement in Changbangdo area are more vulnerable to fire due to temporary makeshift and clustered settlement.

There are about eight fire-fighting trucks in Thimphu today, which usually break down and remain out of service due to the lack of experts to repair them.

RBP officials said that the vehicles are old and finding spare parts is difficult. “We have put two water hydrants in the town with support from thromde but we still need to do more.”

Thimphu Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said there is a need for the fire station to deploy vehicles at north and south Thimphu. “Right now we are trying to shift the responsibility to one another. The relevant stakeholders need to work together.”

There are 23 fire stations in the country today.

According to RBP statistical yearbook, 50-house fires and 44-bush or forest fires were reported last year across the country.

Phurpa Lhamo