Funeral company in Henderson Road fire accident faced action from town council, says K Shanmugam

Funeral company in Henderson Road fire accident faced action from town council, says K Shanmugam

SINGAPORE –  The town council has taken action against the funeral company that erected a wake tent on a service road and caused a delay of 18 minutes in the access of Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) to a fire in Henderson Road, said Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam.

In his written reply to a parliamentary question filed by Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Dennis Tan, K Shanmugam mentioned that at the latest SCDF-Town Councils dialogue held on 12 January, SCDF disclosed the fire safety violations observed during the fire in Henderson Road.

He emphasized that the areas that need to remain unobstructed are clearly marked on the ground, and this should have been complied with.

“The Town Council involved has taken action against the funeral company, as the breach was avoidable.”

Mr Tan asked the Minister, in light of the Henderson Road fire incident, whether the SCDF will be sharing with all funeral companies and Town Councils relevant details of the blockage and all lessons therefrom so that all stakeholders will benefit from the lessons learned and avoid the risk of recurrence.

K Shanmugam said SCDF conducts biannual dialogues with Town Councils to share fire safety-related matters such as common fire infringements observed and case studies on fire incidents at residential premises.

Ensure fire safety compliance among users of common property

“Whenever a fire occurs at residential premises, SCDF also disseminates fire safety advisories to all Town Councils so that necessary measures can be taken to minimise any recurrence. ”

He said SCDF will continue to work with Town Councils to ensure fire safety compliance among users of common property under their charge, such as contractors and funeral companies.

On 8 December last year, SCDF responded to a fire at a rental flat along Henderson Road.

A firefighter who is a Full-Time National Serviceman (NSF) died after falling unconscious during the fire-fighting operation.

The 19-year-old NSF, Edward H Go, was posthumously promoted to the rank of Sergeant 1, and given full ceremonial honours during a “last call” on 13 December last year, with the sounding of fire call alarms across SCDF’s 23 fire stations as well as its headquarters, division headquarters and Civil Defence Academy (CDA).

Minister of State for the Ministry of Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, told parliament last month that the firefighters responding to the fire incident were delayed by 18 minutes after firefighting vehicles were blocked by a tent.

Mr Faishal noted that the firefighters were blocked from accessing the site of operation by a funeral tent by 18 minutes as they had to remove the bollards near the tent to create a safe spot for the vehicles to gain entry to the access way.

He also added that 61 responders from six fire stations were deployed based on the ground commander’s assessment of the resources needed for the operation of all emergency vehicles.

60 per cent of the respondents were regular officers, and 40 per cent of the responders were national servicemen.

The contractor that erected a wake tent on the service road has been issued a summons, Tanjong Pagar Town Council(TPTC) told the Straits Times last month.

TPTC said it is against town council by-laws to erect tents at fire access points. A permit is required to hold a wake and build a tent at a void deck.

“There are signs on-site to inform the public to keep service roads free of obstruction.”

Despite their “regular inspections conducted by its officers”, TPTC said the tent was erected on the evening of 7 December, and the fire at Block 91 Henderson Road in Bukit Merah took place the following morning.

TPTC had confirmed that it issued a summons to the tent contractor for obstructing the service road, but declined to provide further details.

Contractor said tents erected for chanting and practice

According to an earlier report by Lianhe Zaobao which is only available in its print newspaper, the company, Tai Tiong (Red/White) Metal Tents Centre, which set up the tent said it had erected the tent according to the prescribed size of 32 by 18 feet.

The contractor added: “Tents are set up for chanting and practice. We have always pitched tents according to the prescribed size.”

It also reported that six anti-collision barriers were removed.

According to a resident whom its reporter spoke with, the SCDF officers spent nearly an hour trying to dismantle the barriers as the tent was blocking the access.

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