Fireman hurt as blaze guts warehouses

In the third fire in four days, five warehouses are gutted in the Sharjah industrial area.

Sharjah, 6th May 2011.  Smoke billows at a fire in a plumbing company at the Industrial Area.  (Jeffrey E Biteng / The National)
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SHARJAH // A fireman was taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation when crews from Sharjah, Dubai, Ajman and Umm al Qaiwain fought a blaze that gutted five warehouses yesterday.

It was the third major fire at the Sharjah Industrial Area in a few days after blazes at the weekend in a furniture workshop and a petrol depot.

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Three firemen were taken to hospital with minor burns from the earlier fires.

Yesterday's fire, in Industrial Area 12, began about 2pm and took firemen more than four hours to control, said Col Mohammed Hassan bu Taweel, the acting director general of Sharjah Civil Defence.

The warehouses belonged to Raji International Plastic Pipes Company.

The cause of the fire has not yet been established. Col bu Taweel said police were waiting for the premises to cool before forensic officers investigate.

Thick smoke clouded the skies and was visible from Dubai and Ajman. A number of major roads, including Emirates Road, were partly closed, slowing traffic to a snail's pace.

Sharjah, which has experienced a number of big fires in previous summers, is trying to create a safer environment.

Col bu Taweel said Sharjah Civil Defence, Sharjah Police and Adnoc Distribution had co-operated in a fire-testing drill at a petrol station in Sharjah last week.

They intend to carry out similar tests at other petrol stations to gauge their response to possible emergencies this summer.

The authorities have also offered fire-safety training to thousands of workers in industrial areas. More than 2,800 workers have been trained by Sharjah Civil Defence, which said benefits were already being seen.

There have been several instances of fires being extinguished at early stages, Col Waheed al Serkal, the director general of Sharjah Civil Defence, said recently.

"We have about eight trainers offering classes in Industrial Area 19," Col al Serkal said. "Workers are taught how to prevent, control and extinguish fires in their initial stages."

He said the emirate had so far this year suffered fewer fires than it did in the first six months of last year, and he expected fewer fires for the whole year than the 110 in 2010.

"Most of these accidents are still being caused by human error - negligence of safety rules and poor storage of chemicals," Col al Serkal said.

Last month and April, 1,417 fire safety approval certificates had been issued, said Lt Col Abdullah Abd al Aziz al Tunaiji, the director of the security and prevention section at Sharjah Civil Defence.

The certificates are necessary for opening businesses.

Lt Col al Tunaiji said the Ministry of Interior had provided the emirate with four fire engines and a 24-storey ladder.