Buildings near hawker stalls at risk with nearly 900 fire hazards

Checks of blocks near hawker stalls throw up nearly 900 irregularities, including locked exits

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 5:28am

Firefighters found about 900 fire hazards in inspections across the city on buildings near hawker stalls after the deadly Mong Kok blaze in late 2011.

Since the fire in Fa Yuen Street that claimed nine lives, officers had inspected all 339 buildings that had stalls located near their entrances and identified 872 irregularities, the department said yesterday.

These irregularities included locked emergency exits, obstructed escape routes and expired firefighting apparatus.

"This is not an astonishing figure, but the situation is not ideal, either," fire services director Andy Chan Chor-kam said in his annual review of the department's work. "Some of these cases were difficult to follow up because of a lack of owners' groups for the buildings."

Officers issued 219 abatement notices and made one prosecution. Some irregularities were found in common areas and it was hard to tell who was responsible, the department said.

Chan said they would inspect about 4,000 buildings that did not have owners' corporations, management or security guards at least once a year to identify fire hazards.

The department received more than 37,000 fire calls last year, up 10.1 per cent from 2011.

It expects to begin a trial scheme as soon as next month to cut the weekly working hours of officers from 54 to 51.

A team of about seven divers will help train 20 officers each year to boost the 150-strong diving unit, which is deployed in five fire stations and on eight fire boats.

Deputy director David Lai Man-hin said the training was already in the pipeline before two ferries collided off Lamma Island on October 1, killing 39 people.

The department is dealing with a complaint about three officers who dragged a patient roughly in and out of a lift as he lay on the floor last year. It was consulting legal advice on whether to take disciplinary action, assistant director (ambulance) John Yeung Sai-him said.