In order to prevent fires both at home and in public spaces, fire extinguishers play a critical role in preventing fires both at home and in public spaces. An expert from the National Police recently asserted the significance of these safety devices as he highlighted a tragic toll in the country in the first half of this year – 41 lives lost, 84 people injured and 413 houses engulfed in flames. These statistics, he adds, underscore the urgency of easily accessible fire prevention measures.

Long Kimmarita, a resident of Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, echoed the importance of fire safety. She has equipped her home with a dry powder fire extinguisher since 2019. She attested to its usefulness during an emergency which occurred in her home.

“An electrical short circuit started a fire in the ceiling of my home, emitting a shower of sparks. I found myself struggling to put out the flames even after disconnecting the circuit; the fire persisted, especially in a hard-to-reach area,” she recounted.

“The ceiling, ablaze at a height of about 3m, was too high to spray water on. Then, recalling we had a fire extinguisher, my husband quickly retrieved it, allowing us to successfully put out the fire,” she said.

Kimmarita recommends that everyone consider purchasing at least one extinguisher for their homes, as it can effectively prevent the spread of fires.

Fire Extinguisher Sales Surge

Van Samnang, deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Fire Prevention, Extinguishing and Rescue, tells The Post that sales of fire extinguishers are consistently increasing. This growth is attributed to heightened public awareness facilitated by the department’s experts who have deployed forces nationwide.

He says there are three types of fire extinguishers available in Cambodia: ABC, BC (both filled with dry chemical powder), and CO2 extinguishers, which contains non-flammable carbon dioxide gas under extreme pressure.

The dry-chemical ABC and BC extinguishers, as the names suggest, are designed for class A (trash, wood and paper), B (liquid and gas) and C (energised electrical source) and BC fires. They can remain effective for up to five years if unopened; but once used, they cannot be retained. Shaking or turning the extinguisher upside down patting the base at least once a month is advisable, especially during the hot season. 

CO2 extinguishers can be refilled after opening or use. Designed for class B and C (flammable liquid and electrical) fires, they are commonly found in offices, laboratories, mechanical rooms, kitchens, and flammable liquid storage areas.

“ABC and BC types are more efficient for use on solids, liquids and gases. CO2 is mostly used in rooms with documents due to its cooling gas reaching up to minus 79 degrees,” Samnang explains.

Samnang stressed the effectiveness of ABC fire extinguishers in combating electrical fires, which, according to departmental studies, are the primary cause of most house fires. He says that his expert team has actively promoted the proper use and storage of fire extinguishers, responding to requests from various localities, particularly those in fire-prone provinces with high-rise buildings or factories and manufacturing enterprises.

“If the local authorities make a request, our department will dispatch an expert team to that location. The team will provide explanations and instructions on how to use fire extinguishers and ensure a safe escape in case of a fire incident,” he says.

He also notes that the areas with the highest number of fire extinguishers include Phnom Penh and the provinces of Siem Reap, Preah Sihanouk, Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet town on the Thai border – all known for their density and tall structures.

In addition, he advises being cautious and forming fire duty teams within communities.

Promoting safe practices

Samnang says that currently, only Phnom Penh and Preah Sihanouk have fire trucks capable of spraying water at a height of 54m. For provinces without such equipment, the expert team consistently recommends keeping a fire brigade on standby at buildings, providing training and support to these efforts.

Concerning the sale of fire extinguishers, he mentions that due to the government’s adoption of a free market economy, some private companies have imported extinguishers from abroad for sale in Cambodia. However, some of the extinguishers from private companies have not undergone inspection by the Fire Prevention, Extinguishing and Rescue Department. Consequently, it remains uncertain whether they meet the required standards and technical specifications.

“We share our professional expertise with factories, emphasising the importance of safeguarding pipes from sunlight damage. Additionally, it’s crucial to understand how to properly use an extinguisher and be prepared to evacuate if you cannot contain a fire,” he explains.

Concerning the use of fire extinguishers, Prom Yorn, director of Phnom Penh’s Fire Prevention and Rescue Department, says that avoidable house fires lead to tragic losses of property and lives.

“People can use fire extinguishers to handle fire issues independently when faced with a problem. Nowadays, most families should have at least one at home,” he says.

Neth Vantha, director of the National Police’s Department of Fire Prevention, Extinguishing and Rescue, could not be reached for comment.

But in an interview with Bayon Television, he revealed that between January and June this year, there were 516 fires – an alarming increase compared to the same period in 2022. The fires resulted in 41 deaths, 84 injuries, the destruction of 413 houses and set fire to 57 stalls.

“The places hit hardest by fires are Phnom Penh (76 occurrences), Kandal (55), Kampot (39), Siem Reap (37), Takeo (35) and Kep (1),” he noted.