Fires due to short-circuits, substandard wiring and electrical faults are common in Bangladesh, where building regulations are rarely enforced. Every urban apartment has bars fitted, both on balcony and windows to protect against burglary, which also effectively trap the residents inside. Rural homes are not much safer: constructed from wood and woven palm, the occupants cook on wood burning stoves. Many fires blazed in Bandarban town during the six months I lived there. One fire alone burnt fifteen homes to the ground with frightening speed, due to their close proximity.
Here in Dhaka city the deadliest fire for 40 years killed one hundred and eighteen people in the cramped area known as ‘Old Dhaka’ just last month. Seven buildings were engulfed by fire, fueled by the large explosion of nearby gas burners. The lethal practice of locking workers into factories, in particular those from the garment trade, is fairly common practice across Bangladesh. Faced with such enormous challenges, I was most impressed by the quality of personnel and their equipment when visiting the Lalmatia Fire Station this afternoon. With over fourteen years experience, some gleaned from visits to countries as far afield as the United States of America and Saudi Arabia, this leading Fire Fighter closely mentors his team of thirty two colleagues to ensure his valuable knowledge is passed on.