H undreds of homes could have been saved and the fire at Deum Chahn brought under
control in 30 minutes if the city's fire brigade had up-to-date equipment, a
leading Australian fire expert has said.
Frederick Longman, a rescue and
fire fighting consultant for 30 years, said the city's fire brigade needed a
"A survey of the fire department should be done to
assess how many trucks and firemen are needed and what they would cost," he
"Fire fighting is a very expensive insurance program. The first
thing that has to be done here is to take the fire service away from under the
Police Department's jurisdiction.
"Aid should be sought from
organizations such as Overseas Development Association to build up the
Longman, who has been setting up fire precautions at Pochentong
airport, said small fire stations should be built in every community and used
for rapid intervention in an emergency.
"Larger trucks from main fire
stations would be used as backup. This would provide the basis of a national
He said it was unlikely an adequate hydrant system would
be installed in Phnom Penh in the next five years.
"As a consultant, I
would be prepared to conduct a survey and to give free advice to the government
on setting up a basic three-month training course for staff, to be taught in
English and Khmer."
In January 1993, Longman visited the police
department, which is responsible for fire fighting, to offer his
During discussions with the Fire Commissioner Major Ei Kret
he noted that of 10 fire vehicles providing cover for Phnom Penh, only four were
operational but could only respond if sufficient fuel was available.
a report prepared for the Department of Civil Aviation in 1993, he said the City
Fire Department's training facilities were "extremely limited".
"Hospital emergency facilities are limited and little or no
infrastructure exists to handle the number of casualties likely to require
He pointed out that most of the city's modern
hotels did not have proper fire-fighting equipment or fire escapes.
new vehicles are needed urgently, Longman said other equipment including
protective clothing and "proximity" suits which allow fire fighters to get close
to the blaze, were also required. Currently, firemen wear only trousers and
One witness at the Deum Chahn fire told how bowls of water
had to be thrown over the firemen to keep them cool.
suggested the country establish a list of minimum safety requirements based on
guidelines set out by the National Fire Protection Association of America, which
gives worldwide standards.