Unruly tenants dampen estate fire prevention
Unruly residents have been blamed for damaging or stealing 500 fire extinguishers recently fitted in old public housing blocks.
Frustrated housing officials estimate the cost of the vandalism, misuse or theft to total about $600,000.
In some cases residents have been using fire hoses to wash floors.
Now officers want to step up campaigns to educate residents that the extinguishers are strictly for emergencies only and should not be tampered with.
Some want more security patrols to keep the vandals and thieves at bay.
Officers have been replacing extinguishers over the past six months as part of a fire prevention upgrade project.
The $200 million project to install 7,000 new extinguishers and improve fire-fighting equipment on 244 ageing blocks was prompted after an arson attack on an estate in Chai Wan last July.
Neighbours complained that fire hoses on the estate were ruptured, preventing them from fighting the fire at an early stage. Two children and their mother were killed in the arson.
The Housing Department says it has recorded 313 damaged extinguishers, believed to be caused by misuse, and 182 others stolen.
The figure represents about eight per cent of the new extinguishers installed.
An average fire extinguisher costs about $1,200.
The problem is said to be most serious on estates in Kwai Chung and Tsing Yi and the department has alerted police.
Last month, four Lai King Estate units in Kwai Chung were slightly damaged by chemicals discharged from new fire extinguishers by local children.
Kwai Chung District Board member Leung Kwong-cheong said: 'I have received complaints that people got water from fire hoses to wash the floors.' Mr Leung said he has told the department about such cases but officers did not act until the problem grew too big.
'The department cannot lay the blame on the tenants if they do not have good ways to ban people from [misusing extinguishers]. They should send more officers to patrol the floors,' Mr Leung said.
The department's senior building services engineer, Ho Wing-ip, who is in charge of the project, said officials had been aware of the problem and had recently put up signs to warn against misuse.