Officials call for use of common sense when using indoor barbecues

Authorities warn of potentially catastrophic consequences from lighting grills inside after a man died and his son was severely burnt in a fire in their home.

DUBAI // Authorities warned yesterday of potentially catastrophic consequences from lighting barbecues indoors after a man died and his son was severely burnt in a fire in their home. A spokesman for Dubai Municipality said no law specifically prohibits the use of barbecues inside the home but urged residents to use "common sense".

Two-year-old Hanis Rahman was airlifted to Rashid Hospital on Friday night along with his father, Shiraz Abdul Rahman, 37, after the child suffered burns over more than 40 per cent of his body. Mr Abdul Rahman, burnt over 90 per cent of his body, died on Saturday morning from injuries suffered in the fire at the home in Al Qusais. "Hanis is doing better. He was able to eat some food today. But he is still in intensive case and under observation," said Yahiya Malikkal, a relative of Mr Abdul Rahman, who was speaking for the family.

The fire broke out while Mr Abdul Rahman was lighting a barbecue with petrol, relatives of the family said. Mr Abdul Rahman's wife, Simi, and his older daughter are living with relatives; the blaze destroyed their apartment. Mrs Abdul Rahman has not recovered from the shock of seeing her husband fatally burnt. "She is distraught and in shock," Mr Malikkal said. "The family is standing by her and supporting her."

Mr Abdul Rahman's body was handed over to the family yesterday evening; they were expected to leave for India immediately to complete the last rites. The incident occurred when Mr Abdul Rahman, chief of operations for a medical company, was lighting a new barbecue grill in the kitchen of their third-floor home. Relatives said it was Mr Abdul Rahman's first attempt to barbecue inside the flat. An employee from Mr Rahman's workplace was helping him light the barbecue with petrol when the fire flared out of control.

Mr Abdul Rahman was caught up in the flames, which may have been further fuelled by the nearby petrol. Hanis, who was standing beside his father, also caught fire. The boy was rescued by his mother and taken out of the house. Mr Abdul Rahman could not be saved. Dubai Civil Defence said yesterday that emergency teams responded to a call on Friday evening and reached the residence within minutes. They immediately evacuated the building.

"When we got there, the entire flat was on fire," said a civil defence spokesman. It took the firefighters about 40 minutes to control the fire, he said. The tragedy has raised several questions about the risks of starting barbecues inside the home. Authorities urged residents to follow basic fire-safety procedures. "Having a barbecue indoors is catastrophic," the civil defence spokesman said. "Its dangers go beyond just a fire accident as a lot of toxic gases are released which could suffocate the victims.

"We also want to warn people to be very cautious when they use incense sticks or candles in their homes. The civil defence cannot protect people always. A culture of safety among the family is important." He said a study conducted by the authority showed that 75 per cent of deaths in fire accidents are caused by suffocation rather than burns. An official with Dubai Municipality said that while "it is not allowed to burn charcoals inside a house", there was no law specifically banning the use of barbecues indoors.

"There is common sense and there are laws," said Redha Salman, the director of public health and safety at Dubai Municipality. He said indoor barbecuing would seem to fall under general legislation against "endangering lives". Mr Salman said that many landlords set guidelines for tenants on the use of barbecue equipment. "Certain landlords ban it while others are flexible," he said. "There are balconies that are equipped with barbecue areas. So it all depends on the size and type of apartment."