‘Bed sheets, curtains cause of rapid spread of hospital fire’

Photo Credit: twitter BuletinJohore

KUALA LUMPUR: Flammable materials such as bed sheets, curtains and clothing were among the factors that caused the rapid spread of the fire at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Hospital Sultanah Aminah (HSA), Johor Bahru, yesterday.

Senior security consultant of Ficosafe Consultants Sdn Bhd Samad Rahim said the heat, the oxygen and flammable materials fuelled the fire, making it difficult to control.

“The fire, which occurred in a closed location, caused strong heat and quickly spread to the curtains and other flammable materials,” he told Bernama today.

Samad, who is experienced in building security consultancy, including at hospitals, said this when commenting on the fire at HSA yesterday.

The fire on the second floor of the hospital, built in 1938, killed six patients being treated in the ICU while another was rescued.

Three HSA employees were hurt and treated at Hospital Sultan Ismail.

Asked whether the oxygen used by the ICU patients made it difficult to control the fire, he said: “The oxygen is combustible in nature as it enriches the air. This will cause the fire to spread quickly.”

Yesterday, Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam said the oxygen used for breathing by the patients fuelled the fire and made it difficult to control.

Samad advised the management of buildings to comply with the Uniform Building By-laws 1984 (UKBS) as a security measure in the premises.

“Prevention is better than cure. Take the first step before anything untoward happens.”

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who visited the families of victims in HSA yesterday wanted a commission to be formed to probe the fire.

He said the findings could then be used as a guide for all hospitals in the country, particularly for hospitals that need to be modified or upgraded.

Subramaniam today said the health ministry would conduct an audit of all its hospitals on their state of preparedness in the event of a fire outbreak, starting with the old hospitals.

He said the additional measure was necessary to avoid fire outbreaks like yesterday’s fire at Sultanah Aminah Hospital.