Recent Blazes Strain City’s Firefighters

Two fires in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district Monday night left six homes in ruins and raised the total number of fires in the municipality for the first half of April to five—marking an increase that officials said has begun to strain the city’s fire-fighting resources.

Municipal fire department deputy chief Sok Vannara said Tuesday that despite the New Year festivities, he had no trouble mobilizing one fire truck to Chbar Ampov I commune at 10:15 pm and three to Boeng Tompun commune shortly after 11 pm.

The Chbar Ampov I fire took half an hour to extinguish, while the subsequent fire in Boeung Tompun took about four hours, he said.

Meanchey District Governor Kuch Chamreoun said one house in Chbar Ampov I was destroyed in a fire caused by candles and incense left burning unattended, while faulty electrical wiring was to blame for the five homes razed in the Boeung Tompun blaze.

“A total of six families are homeless, and we need some things to help them as well as emergency food supplies,” he said.

The two Meanchey fires follow an April 5 fire at a paper factory in Dangkao district’s Choam Chao commune, as well as a small-scale fire at NagaWorld casino Saturday morning.

A devastating blaze also broke out last Friday in Russei Keo district that left more than 500 families homeless.

Soun Sopheak, municipal fire police chief, said there have been a total of 20 fires in Phnom Penh in 2008—about double the number that occurred over the same period in 2007.

He said the bulk of fires are caused by faulty electrical wiring and that the extreme heat at this time of year contributes to the prevalence of fires.

He expressed concern that the fire department’s water supply would soon be depleted.

“The fires happened too fast, and we could not respond in time,” he said.

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