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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lack of training, gear highlighted in fatal fire

Lack of training, gear highlighted in fatal fire

A FTER a fire last week in which a five-year-old boy died and his father was burned

badly, the deputy fire chief explained the problems his men had to overcome - a lack

of material and training.

Despite nine new trucks in the last two years - six bought in Singapore and three

given as a gift by the Japanese government - the 96 firefighters at Tuol Sleng central

fire station are still short of their needs.

At this time of dry season - firefighters face about five to six blazes a month,

according to Dy Eao, deputy chief of the fire station -"We still need more training,"

said Eao.

There is no training, exercises or fake fires to improve the experience of the fire


"We do not have space to train, we do not have spare fuel to use the engines,

the men are not paid enough," Eao said.

However, the efficiency of the firemen has improved since the time they were using

five old Russian trucks without having any spare parts.

"They know how to fight a blaze," said Kim Saysamalen, deputy chief of

the municipality . "But there is still an urgent need to reach international


Witnesses to the March 16 fire near the National Television office remarked that

a lot of the firefighters work was wasted.

The 15 men at the site seemed not to be able to handle the new tank trucks.

At one point the firemen opened the tap before the pipe was screwed on. Several times

the pipe remained opened pouring water onto the street, and hoses leaked because

of holes.

The large crowd often laughed at the men, especially when some were splashed by their

colleagues who had difficulties controlling the fire hose nozzle.

It took the firefighters two hours to fight the blaze in which seven families lost

their homes.

"This blaze was quite difficult to stop. If we would have had a higher ladder,

we could have been more efficient," said Sok Vanra, chief of the Tuol Sleng

central station.

A twelve meter ladder is the highest they possess; they're still waiting for a 30-meter

one they asked for a year ago.

The 15 trucks at the Toul Sleng central station are Russian and nearly impossible

to find spare parts for.

Three times the trucks had to leave to get more water.

"When the tanks run out of water, we have to go to one of three places to fill

the tanks again. If the blaze is in the north, it is a very long way as the fire

engines are either in Chamcarmon or at the Olympic stadium," explained Vanra.

"There is not enough pressure in the water network for the fire engines to work,"

said Kim Saysamalen.

"We have to have 25 fire engines but it will not be possible till the pressure

is higher," he added.

Even with new trucks - which, like the ladders, have been requested - the fire fighters

need to be trained. Only 20 men have undergone the necessary training on the last

new truck they got.

At the time the Post visited the fire station, the fire men received a call. Within

10 minutes after ringing the bell to call the fire men on duty that day, the trucks

were on the way to the blaze. Some firefighters lost time when they had to locate

the keys to one of the trucks.

The previous driver had returned home with it.



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