Short circuits the leading cause of fires in Dubai, figures reveal

Ensuring electrical circuits are not overloaded is a priority, an expert said as it was revealed that short circuits were the leading cause of fires in Dubai.

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DUBAI // Ensuring electrical circuits are not overloaded is a priority, an expert said as it was revealed that short circuits were the leading cause of fires in Dubai.

Maj Gen Rashid Thani Al Matroushi, director of Dubai Civil Defence (DCD), said his department responded to 193 incidents in the first half of this year – an increase from 158 in the same period last year.

Eighty-two of those incidents took place in homes, he said.

Of the 193 incidents, 34 were due to short circuits, 10 were caused by a lit cigarette, nine were due to unattended candles and five were due to incense (bakhoor).

However, the DCD chief said that more than 97 per cent of recorded fires were minor cases.

Mark Fenton, of Honeywell Fire Safety, said the industry needed to ensure that there was sufficient training and maintenance programmes in place for operators. He said it was untrue that fires were more common in the summer than in the winter.

“What’s worth looking at are the differences between older building and newer buildings, and the inherent risks older buildings have,” he said. “When older buildings are loaded with more people and air-conditioning units, they put more load on the electricity or power supply within the building and, if it is not designed to take that extra load, or it’s not installed correctly or badly maintained, then there is a risk that there will be an overload on the system and potentially cause a fire.”

Mr Fenton said public awareness was crucial.

“Residents need to equip themselves with basic safety knowledge, including the key causes of fire around the home, and ensure they know what to do should a fire occur,” he said.

“One challenge is bringing a lot of people from different cultures and backgrounds together, whose level of safety awareness is different.

“In the labour camps, it comes down to the owners of the camps making sure that they’re fit for purpose in terms of the electrical system, to deal with the air-conditioning, the cooking and the lighting – and that it’s designed for the right number of people.”

Dubai resident Sari Tuqan, 30, said: “We once had an incident in a JLT building, where someone had thrown a cigarette butt, resulting in a fire eruption up to four floors but because the fire alarms would intermittently go off, no one took it seriously.

“Even if they were drills, no one notified us beforehand.

“In my old office building, they had installed the ground-floor fire exit to open inwards instead of outwards, which is also a fire hazard.”

Dubai resident S S, 30, has experienced two fires this year. “One in my office building and the second at home. I think once you experience the reality of how scary a fire actually is, living and working in high-rise buildings is really put into perspective,” she said.

“My husband and I are now looking for a villa, as one of the biggest concerns we have about living in apartments is the fire risk.

“After the fire scares this year – which both started due to a short circuit in the air-conditioning units – I became a little bit paranoid. Every day I turn off all of the plugs that are not in use and, when we travel, I turn off the air-conditioning, close the blinds and turn off all electric plugs.”