Smoking a Major Cause of Jakarta Home Fires
December 21, 2009
Cigarettes are not only bad for people’s health, they could also end up burning down homes.
Paimin Napitupulu, chief of Jakarta’s Fire and Disaster Mitigation Agency, said cigarette butts that had not been properly extinguished were the fifth biggest cause of fires in the capital this year.
“They caused 49 of the 821 fires in Jakarta,” Paimin said, during a fire prevention seminar held on Monday.
He said there were many areas in Jakarta extremely prone to fire, such as Jatinegara and Kramat Jati in East Jakarta, Kalideres in West Jakarta and Manggarai in South Jakarta.
“The reason is that there are many buildings in those areas that are built from flammable materials and many people steal electricity and have unsafe electrical installations,” he said.
Paimin said faulty electrical wiring topped the list of the causes of fires in Jakarta this year, accounting for over 400 cases.
This was followed by stoves, candles and burning mosquito coils.
The Jakarta government issued a ban on smoking in public facilities and on public transportation earlier this year. It also issued several ordinances regarding littering.
Dien Ermawati, head of the city’s health agency, said it was up to authorities to enforce the bans.
“When an area is classified as a smoke-free environment it should really be smoke free,” Dien said.
“The fire department has to be more proactive in approaching the community regarding this matter. The laws are there. It’s just a matter of enforcing them.”
Sukendar, an official at the city’s Fire and Disaster Mitigation Agency, said his office had provided basic fire fighting training to two people in each of the city’s neighborhood communities, focusing on those crowded with shanties and most vulnerable to fires.
“The administration has also allocated funds for fire extinguishers in each of these communities,” Sukendar said, adding that the communities had also been provided with information on fire safety.
“We have advised them about stubbing out cigarette butts properly, as well as the dangers of candles and mosquito repellent coils.”
He admitted, however, that in the past nine years he had seen little improvement in overall fire safety levels.
This year alone, fires in Jakarta have resulted in at least 43 deaths and financial losses of up to Rp 300 billion ($31.5 million).
The most recent incident occurred earlier this month when faulty electrical wiring caused a fire in the Jembatan Besi subdistrict in Tambora, West Jakarta. The fire destroyed 200 homes and left 800 people homeless. One firefighter, Sulistyo Putranto, died as a result of part of a burning house collapsing on him.
In the last three years, six firemen have died.
Quoting city administration records for the past five years, Paimin said that cigarette butts that hadn’t been properly extinguished had caused 761 fires in Jakarta between 2004 and 2009.