Following a series of tragedies and near misses caused by fires, a senior police official issued warnings for people to exercise precautions amid the dry season.

Net Vantha, director of the Department of Fire Prevention, Extinguishing and Rescue, urged people to be cautious with open flames, suggesting that they replace any electrical wiring which has become old and dilapidated.

Over the course of two days, several fires broke out in the capital and Kampong Speu province.

On December 25, a wooden house in Kampong Speu’s Bor Seth district burned to the ground, causing the death of a 23-year-old man.

According to the provincial police, the fire in Trapeang Tonloap village of the district’s Tuol Ampil commune was caused by an electrical short circuit.

The fire broke out at 1:20am, destroying the home of Soy Ra, a 49 year old woman. Tragically, her disabled son, Leng Narath, was unable to escape the blaze and perished.

Earlier that night in the same province, an unattended candle ignited a fire in village 1 of Phnom Sruoch district’s Treng Trayeung commune, razing two homes to the ground. Seven fire trucks were dispatched to the scene, police said.

Phnom Penh experienced two fires the following day.

At 1am, a fire gutted 11 rooms of a building in Borei Keila village of Prampi Makara district’s Veal Vong commune, destroying many people’s possessions.

Colonel Prom Yorn, chief of the Capital Fire Prevention, Extinguishing and Rescue Office, said it was extinguished by 2:30am, with the use of 24 appliances.

“Our officers are conducting an investigation to ascertain the cause of the fire. Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident,” he added.

Later that afternoon, eight rented units of workers in Spean Khpos village of Russey Keo district’s Kilometre 6 commune – caught fire, causing serious damage but no casualties. As the approach roads are narrow, the fire spread to other units before the emergency services could extinguish the blaze.

Vantha called on people to be especially mindful of fires during the dry season, especially where flammable materials are concerned. He made the appeal during a December 26 fire prevention exercise at the Sathapana Tower in the capital’s Daun Penh district.

“People need to think seriously about old wiring, should replace old fire hoses, and must avoid any carelessness that could cause a fire,” he said.

Vantha told The Post that the exercise trained the building’s staff in measures they could employ to extinguish fires on their own, best evacuation practices, and the ways that they could liaise with the authorities. The exercise included emergency evacuation, victim rescue and fire fighting drills.

“Thanks to the day’s training, I expect that the staff of Sathapana [Bank] will be able to respond to an emergency situation. They will be able to provide first aid on their own and even control small fires and stop them from spreading,” he said.

“I urge all bank and microfinance institution managers to implement similar exercises, and comply with the Kingdom’s fire laws and regulations,” he added.

He said a similar exercise would be held at the new Aeon 3 mall in the capital’s Meanchey district.

Kenji Kuroki, deputy chief executive officer of Sathapana Bank, said the bank requested the help of the police department to train their staff as they wanted to be sure their staff were as safe as possible.

“The building is 19 storeys tall, with four levels of underground car parks. We have more than 1,000 employees and their safety is paramount,” he added.

Kuroki said the bank cooperates with the national police to conduct this exercise every year.

According to the National Police’s fire prevention department, so far in 2022 there have been at least 618 serious fires, 52 less than last year. The flames killed 17 people and injured 59 others, with 697 houses and 109 market stalls damaged.

The most common cause of fires was electrical faults, with faulty wiring causing 41.55 per cent of the fires. Open flames sparked 38.24 per cent of them, while the cause of the remaining fires was unknown, or still under investigation.