More than 1,000 owners of commercial buildings can apply for funding to upgrade fire safety facilities under a government loan scheme that came into effect yesterday. About one-fifth of the 500 pre-1973 commercial buildings were likely to apply for the loans, the Fire Services Department said. Other potential borrowers are owners of some of the 500 commercial premises such as banks, shopping arcades and department stores required to upgrade equipment under a law brought in after the Shekkipmei Hongkong Bank fire in 1994 in which 12 people died. No ceiling will be set but the amount will be confined to the cost of improvement work. Borrowers will be required to repay the loan in three years with interest at the average best lending rate. Borrowers are also required to provide security such as bank guarantees or mortgages to the department. The first phrase is targeted at the 500 pre-1973 commercial buildings and will be followed by 1,000 pre-1987 commercial buildings. But notorious fire death traps such as Chungking Mansions would be excluded from the scheme. 'Composite buildings will not be covered this time. But lower floors of the Chungking building are defined as commercial premises,' said deputy chief fire officer Charles Chu Man-chun. He said the Government was looking at extending the law to buildings with mixed use. The department has already issued 1,100 directions on safety to 50 commercial premises. The purpose of the Amendment Ordinance is to extend the scope of the Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Ordinance to cover pre-1987 commercial buildings after the 1996 Garley Building fire in which 40 people died. Installation of automatic sprinkler systems, emergency lighting and manual fire alarm systems are three areas which will need upgrading under the ordinance. Owners who fail to comply face a fine of up to $25,000 plus a daily fine of $2,500, which could rise to a maximum fine of $250,000 and three years' imprisonment.