(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Residents and the Sharjah Department of Civil Defence have attributed the increasing number of fire accidents in flats and residential buildings in the emirate to barbecuing, throwing of cigarette butts and smoking of shishas in balconies.
According to the Civil Defence, over 153 fire accidents occurred in flats, houses and villas in various parts of Sharjah last year. The investigation revealed that most of the accidents happened due to negligence of residents.
A man smokes in the balcony of his flat in a building in Dubai. Investigation revealed that some of the major fires in residential towers in Sharjah last year were caused by throwing of cigarette butts into balconies below. - KT file photo used for illustrative purpose only
Residents called on the authorities concerned including the municipality to take tough action against those who use their balconies for such dangerous activities which could cause loss of lives and property. Hundreds of residents lost all their belongings in fires in some of the residential towers in Sharjah recently.
Ahmed Osman Abid, who live in a tower in Al Nahda, complaints about his African neighbour who uses the balcony for barbecuing (BBQ) in the weekend. Abid said that the smoke and smell annoy him. He had informed the securitymen of the building, but they did not do anything. "I urge the municipality to do something to stop these kind of practices by some residents who don't care about the consequences of what they are doing," he fumed.
Zanoobah Ahmed, a resident of a building in Abu Shagara, said her Palestinian neighbour usually smokes shisha in his balcony and she informed him and his family that this practice would affect the environment and pose health risks to her newborn. The smoke and smell enter her apartment through the ventilator in the bathroom attached to her children's room. "They got very upset at me and considered me a troublemaking woman and said it is a personal matter and I should mind my business. The watchman is scared to talk to them," she said.
Zanoobah added that the municipality and Civil Defence must take stringent measures to stop these practices which are considered to be the major reasons behind fire accidents and pollution of environment in the area.
Bahar Pourya, who lives in a tower in Rolla area, said men living in apartment above hers throw lighted cigarette butts in her balconies. She said no one in her family smokes. "I'm surprised how come those living above my flat smoke cigarettes in the balconies as I know they have small children. They never care about the health of their own children, then how can we expect them to care about ours? I had informed the security of the building who warned them several times but they don't listen."
BBQ in balconies is banned
Speaking to Khaleej Times about the issue, Omar Al Sharji, Director of Inspections at the Sharjah Municipality, said the civic body has already issued rules and regulations banning barbecuing, smoking of shisha or use of fire and smoke for any purposes in the balconies. The circular has been distributed to the managements of all residential buildings and towers in the emirate. The municipality has also instructed them to post the warnings and circulars in the entrance of buildings for residents to see clearly.
The municipality would not tolerate the violators, as these practices are considered dangerous for the lives of residents and the environment. The residents are urged to lodge complaints against violators by calling 933. The building management must inform the residents that this practice is against the safety regulations and not allow them to carry out such practices in the building. The municipality would impose fines starting from Dh250 depending on the gravity of violations.
Al Sharji urged the public to follow the safety rules and regulations to ensure their own safety as well as that of others.
Civil Defence upgrading facilities
Brigadier Abdullah Saeed Al Suwaidi, Director-General of the Sharjah Civil Defence, said the department is making all efforts to reduce fire accidents in residential buildings, by carrying out awareness campaigns among residents and watchmen of buildings to educate them how to use fire extingushers.
However, the emirate saw some of the biggest residential building fires last year, which displaced hundreds of residents. Among them were the Al Bakr Tower 4 fire in January that left 125 families homeless, and the fire in the 40-storey Al Tayer Tower in April that displaced more than 400 families. Fire experts found that the two fires were caused by discarded cigarette butts thrown from upper floors.
Brigadier Al Suwaidi said emphasis this year will be on residential safety campaigns.
"The Civil Defence department was also undertaking several projects of constructing new fire stations as well as upgrading the old ones," he said. Among the new centres to be opened this year are one in Al Madam and another in Khorfakkhan. Other centres to be upgraded included the civil defence stations in Al Dhaid, Kalba and Maleiha. The projects are being financed by the Dh1-billion fund set aside by the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to upgrade and develop infrastructure in the northern emirates.