Fire traps rife, check after fatal blaze finds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 May, 2011, 12:00am


Safety inspections prompted by a fatal blaze last year have uncovered more potential death traps, firefighters say.

Locked emergency exits and obstructed escape routes were among the hazards found during the checks after a fire in a Cheung Sha Wan factory building that killed a firefighter and injured three others.

Inspectors also found defective emergency lighting and signs and fire doors wedged open.

Increased inspections after the blaze saw the number of fire hazard notices issued by the Fire Services Department rise to 1,756 last year, up from 1,152 in 2009.

The figures have kept rising this year, with 630 such warnings being issued in the first four months of 2011. A total of 84 prosecutions were made last year, compared with the 69 in 2009.

The department said it had stepped up inspections and increased manpower after the fatal blaze 14 months ago.

Senior fireman Yeung Chun-kit, 47, died after being trapped in the burnt-out factory in the 50-year-old building. Three firefighters were injured. The blaze provoked the department to launch citywide inspections of 2,000 pre-1987 industrial blocks and enlarge a task force set up to check other buildings.

Most of the locked fire exits were mostly in old residential blocks that have no security guards and property management staff or have not set up owners' incorporations.

'In some cases, emergency doors were locked on the roof or ground-floor rear exit in these old buildings as part of their anti-burglary measures,' the department spokesman said.

The spokesman said discarded furniture and rubbish obstructing public corridors and back staircases could add to the intensity of a blaze.

Notices were issued to owners and tenants ordering them to remove obstacles and improve fire safety or face fines up to HK$100,000.

'Work must be done within a reasonable time or they will face prosecution,' the spokesman said.

Inspections also found defects in fire protection equipment such as fire hoses, hose reel valves and extinguishers.

The department has appealed to the public to help by reporting fire hazards to its 24-hour hotline on 2723 8787. 'We will take action immediately once we receive a complaint,' the spokesman said.