The director of the National Police’s Fire Department, Neth Vatha, has urged all fire department units in the capital and provinces to be vigilant amid a wave of fires across the country.

He said that between February 14 and 16, 10 house and forest fires had happened across five provinces – Kampong Speu, Takeo, Kampot, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom as well as in the capital Phnom Penh. They caused several hundred thousand dollars worth of damage.

Vatha said that most of the fires were caused by the negligence of local people.

“Some residents had not paid attention to checking and changing the electricity network systems and hoses that were old or broken. In other cases, careless cigarette butts were the cause of forest fires, which then spread to nearby village houses,” he said.

Vatha advised that disseminating fire prevention measures, alongside educating citizens on fire prevention was needed.

“In the past, specialists from the Fire Department educated and disseminated precautionary measures, and prevented fires in some local areas.

“However, the awareness and the participation of our citizens today remain limited. So, we need to go down to disseminate more measures for them so that they are aware and take part in stopping fires more effectively, ” he said.

Some residents, Vatha said, were also constrained by their financial situation, which meant they were not buying the proper internationally certified fire prevention equipment from recognised companies.

“Where some people had decided to buy fire extinguishers for their families, the poor quality of the product meant that they could not be used,” he said.

Kampong Thom provincial police chief Ouk Kosal told The Post that between February 22 and 27, his province would launch a campaign to disseminate measures to prevent fires and educate citizens in various districts.

During the campaign, specialists will explain how to extinguish fires in the hope that citizens will be more prepared in the future.

“The majority of our citizens don’t know the techniques to extinguish fires. This results in panic and a loss of control as the fire rages. With the right knowledge, such fires could have been stopped or even prevented in the first place,” he said.

Kosal also said: “It is preferable to suffer on a sinking boat in the middle of the river than to have your house destroyed by fire. If a boat sinks in the middle of the river, it costs little. But if a house catches fire, it may destroy the whole property and cause huge financial losses and homelessness.”