Thirty-four people have been killed and 72 more injured in fires in the first quarter of this year. These figures represent a three and four times increase over the same period last year, when fires left 10 people dead and 17 injured.

The jump in fire casualties is detailed in a report from the National Police’s Department of Fire Prevention, Extinguishing and Rescue, seen by The Post on March 20.

According to the data, in the first quarter of this year, there were 195 fires, an increase of nine times compared to the same period last year. The fires damaged 151 buildings, factories, enterprises, hotels, casinos and houses, along with 37 market stalls.

The cause of this year’s fires were determined to be electrical faults in 40.25 per cent of cases; gas, charcoal and firewood stoves in 39.43 per cent of cases; with 20.32 per cent of cases remain under investigation by the police, in some instances due to the possibility of arson.

“Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal and Siem Reap had the highest number of fires in the first quarter of this year. Banteay Meanchey province recorded the most deaths and injuries. Kep is our model province as it is the only place where no fires have occurred at all in recent consecutive years,” the report indicated.

On March 20, five houses were destroyed by fire in Boeung Trabek area near the sewage canal in Phsar Doeum Thkov commune of Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district, according to fire officials.

Kong Tho, deputy director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Department of Fire Prevention, Extinguishing and Rescue, told The Post that although the March 20 fire did not cause any deaths or injuries, it damaged a lot of property in a poor community.

“Fires remain a challenge and have a serious impact on the wellbeing of the people, the environment, economy and our society as a whole,” said Tho.

Tho called on the public to work together to prevent fires from occurring by regularly practising recommended safety principles. These include properly checking gas stoves and burners and turning off all cooking appliances before leaving home while ensuring that all homes have at least one fire extinguisher.