Fewer UAE fires in 2023 despite increase in residential incidents

Overall decline in incidents throughout the year, according to Ministry of Interior data

The Barakat Tower in Al Barsha, Dubai, was damaged by flames in February 2023. Pawan Singh / The National
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The number of fires in the UAE fell last year although official figures revealed an increase in certain categories, specifically in residential blazes and major incidents.

Details released by the Ministry of Interior show civil defence teams responded to 2,473 fires last year, down from 3,000 in 2022.

Most were in residential areas, with homes accounting for 1,636 of fires, up from the 1,385 the year before.

The figures did not provide information on deaths or injuries.

The rise may be linked to the rapid population growth in the UAE
David Campbell, from Dubai Civil Defence’s Emirates Safety Lab

Of all fires recorded, 32 were classified as major last year, compared to 20 in 2022.

Another 57 fires were classified as medium, 1,309 as limited and 12,075 as minor.

There were 293 fires in commercial buildings, 128 on farms, 106 at industrial properties and 97 at public service buildings.

Areas that recorded an overall drop in incidents included deserts, educational establishments, entertainment venues, government buildings, health centres and touristic venues.

Population growth

David Campbell, from Dubai Civil Defence’s Emirates Safety Lab, said the higher number of residential fires could have been due to population growth.

“The rise may be linked to the rapid population growth in the UAE, with many new residents possibly unfamiliar with local fire safety practices,” he told The National.

Mr Campbell said there is a need for more community education and awareness programmes about home fire risks and mitigation strategies, noting that such campaigns have been a success in recent years.

“These [programmes] significantly improved fire incident reduction," he said. "But there is always room for improvement to ensure the majority of the community is aware of fire safety in homes.”

To ensure safety, he said, homes should use non-combustible materials, certified appliances and Civil Defence-approved fire alarms.

“Maintaining these systems through approved contractors is crucial,” he said.

Public education and civic responsibility, along with compliance with fire safety codes, are key to making the UAE one of the safest countries in the world, he added.

Breakdown by emirate

Emergency services responded to 735 fires in Abu Dhabi capital last year, compared to 860 fires the year before, while in the rest of the emirate there were 578 incidents in Al Ain and 75 in Al Dhafra.

Dubai dealt with 343 incidents, while Sharjah responded to 306 fires.

Fujairah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain had to manage 165, 114, 111 and 46 blazes, respectively.

Increased awareness

Brig Sami Al Naqbi, director general of Sharjah Civil Defence Authority, attributed the overall decrease in fires in the country to an increased awareness of safety measures but also emphasised the need for replacing dangerous building material and promoting the country's Hassantuk fire alarm system.

“Authorities will continue all efforts possible, whether that be enforcing mandatory fire alarm systems, or replacing hazardous cladding among other rules, but the key factor will remain the public’s awareness of the importance of following safety protocols,” he told The National.

The ministry report comes a month after a fire at a 39-storey residential building comprising 750 apartments in Sharjah killed five people.

Another 44 were injured after the blaze in the Al Nadha area, with 17 requiring hospital treatment.

Brig Al Naqbi said behaviour such as negligence regarding electrical loads, maintenance and monitoring of electrical cables, and the careless disposal of flammable waste, are now less common.

The decline in such risky practices, he said, is a direct result of increased preventive awareness, contributing to the decrease in fires.

Fire alarm installations

Nazia Mustafa, sales manager of Red Blue Flame Fire Safety and Security Systems, told The National the company has been installing an increasing number of fire alarm systems, with five to six per day.

“We are getting so many calls and have seen almost an 80 per cent increase in requests in the past few months,” she said.

“People have become aware not only of the mandatory nature of these devices but also of their significance for their own safety and security.”

Highlighting the importance of fire alarm systems, she recounted an incident in which a blaze erupted in the kitchen of a villa where alarms had been fitted only a week before.

“The alarm went off and civil defence teams were on the scene immediately and controlled the minor fire, which could have escalated if no system was there,” Ms Mustafa said.

She expressed confidence that the number of blazes would continue to decline this year, with many villas installing fire detectors.

“I am 100 per cent sure that the system will contribute to a decrease in fire incidents,” she said.

As of January 1, installing smoke and fire detectors and subscribing to the UAE e-alert system known as Hassantuk has become mandatory for villa owners.

Improved fire safety

A positive shift in behaviour during fires has also had a positive effect, Brig Al Naqbi said.

Instead of remaining in their homes or attempting to identify the cause of the alarm, more people promptly report fires upon hearing alarms and follow orderly evacuation procedures, such as prioritising the elderly and children, and using staircases.

“I have personally observed a growing awareness of fire safety protocols among the public,” he said.

“I have also seen a rising interest in fire-safety training and inquiries about optimal fire alarm systems.”

Brig Al Naqbi encouraged the public to sustain this momentum of awareness by using the relevant information and educational videos available on official websites and social media accounts.

“These resources cover essential topics such as fire-safety procedures, preventive measures, proper use of fire extinguishers, evacuation protocols, and ensuring the safety of electrical wiring and gas cylinders in kitchens,” he said.

Updated: May 28, 2024, 3:00 AM