Fewer lives were lost to fires year-to-date when compared to the same period last year, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Fire Prevention and Extinguishing and Rescue. However, the number of injured has risen, as had the number of damaged homes.

Department director Neth Vantha said on August 18 that during this period, there were 428 cases of fires nationwide resulting in 13 deaths and 41 injuries, with 564 houses damaged or destroyed.

“The total number of fires fell by 42 and the death toll by four compared to the same period last year. Unfortunately, the number of injured rose by seven and 109 more houses were burned,” he said.

According to Vantha, Phnom Penh had suffered the most fires with 72 cases recorded, followed by Kandal province at 39, Siem Reap and Battambang at 32 and 28 respectively, and Takeo at three.

He called on the owners of large establishments and factories to pay close attention to fire prevention measures by ensuring that they had sufficient equipment and a fire safety plan in place. This would give them a chance to extinguish fires before authorities arrived. Tackling a fire before it grew out of control is often a crucial factor, he added.

According to a fire department report seen by The Post on August 18, more than 41 per cent of fires were due to electrical malfunctions and 37 per cent by open flames, generally candles, cooking fires or incense. The remaining 22 per cent remained under investigation.

National Police chief Neth Savoeun recently urged all departments to work with international partners to improve their skills. This advice extended to the fire department.

He also called on private institutions to establish volunteer fire brigades. In cooperation with the authorities, they could reduce response times, he said.