Nine people died and 89 were injured in more than 2,000 building fires in the UAE last year, official figures show.
Data released by the Ministry of Interior revealed 18 of those injured were firefighters.
The number of blazes in residential buildings, including villas and apartment blocks, increased by 8.4 per cent from the previous year.
The ministry said 2,090 building fires were recorded last year, up from 1,968 in 2020.
Fire crews battle tower blaze - in pictures
The number of fires in residential properties rose from 1,277 in 2020 to 1,385 last year.
The increase prompted a fire chief in Sharjah to call on the public to follow safety rules.
“One of the most important causes of fires that occur in homes and apartments is failing to follow prevention and safety requirements,” said Col Sami Al Naqbi, director general of Sharjah Civil Defence.
He urged people to ensure electrical appliances were working properly, cable connections in working order and that power supplies were not overloaded.
He said this was particularly important in the hot summer months, when air conditioners were used more frequently.
“All these can cause short circuits that lead to causing fires,” he said.
He also urged the public to properly store gas cylinders and ensure regulators and pipes were intact and not too close to a heat source.
Improper use of flammable materials can also be a fire risk, he said.
“Statistics revealed that smoking inside bedrooms, using incense burners inside wardrobes and poorly stored flammable materials are other main causes of fire outbreaks in homes,” he said.
He urged residents and citizens to ensure they have functioning fire extinguishers at home.
Crews were called to a variety of building blazes during the year, including at shops, farms, health centres, shopping centres, hotels, restaurants and warehouses.
Figures show that 775 fire incidents were reported in Abu Dhabi, followed by 364 in Dubai.
Another 304 were reported in Ajman, 293 in Sharjah, 149 in Fujairah, 145 in Ras Al Khaimah and 60 in Umm Al Quwain.
Nearly 44 per cent were registered as minor incidents. Major fires comprised only 1.2 per cent of all fire incidents.
“A quick response is significant because fires spread quickly, therefore we worked on reducing our response time from 5.1 minutes in 2020 to 4.86 minutes in 2021,” Col Al Naqbi said.
Harnessing technology to fight fires
Dubai Civil Defence was this month given approval to use drones to fight high-rise fires in the emirate.
The move from the General Civil Aviation Authority allows the use of drones for backup and support operations, state news agency Wam reported.
It will help Civil Defence to tackle fires in hard-to-reach places, such as high-rise buildings, confined spaces and warehouses storing hazardous material.
Sharjah Police regularly use drones to ensure a quick response to fires.
Mavic 2, one of the force's high-tech aerial fleet, was sent in to find tenants inside the 48-storey Abbco Tower after it was engulfed by a fire in 2020.
“Being a time-sensitive matter, the device was deployed to locate any tenants who were not able to make it out of the tower,” said Capt Omran Al Matrooshi, head of the drone unit at Sharjah Police.
“It was able to find all three people, who were taken out to safety."