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Ignorance led to child’s death in Port Moresby: Fire service

A combination of ignorance of basic fire safety measures and parental negligence led to the tragic loss of life of an innocent child at a Badili residential accommodation.

The Port Moresby residential building, which was once a shop, caught on fire on Sunday, 4th June, 2017, sometime after 2pm.

Acting Deputy Chief Fire Officer of Operations, Patrick Russell, was dismayed that despite PNG Fire Service’s continuous fire awareness campaign programs, there are people still continuing to be indifferent about fire safety.

Russell said: “While the cause of fire is yet to be determined at the Badili fire, it is possible to assume that the children who were in one of the room where the fire started may have some knowledge of its cause. “Our fire investigation records show that there a number of such incidents where small children have become fire victims because they were left alone and were exposed, or had easy access to, ignition sources such as matches, candles, kerosene lamps and the likes.

“Often small children caught in fire situations find it difficult to escape safely or are unable to be rescued by other persons. Most times we find that they were locked in and cannot unlock the door themselves or have no other alternative means of escape.”

Russell stated that the law and relevant authorities, such as child welfare, should deal with negligent parents or guardians who leave their children unattended.

Acting Chief Fire Officer, Bill Roo, further raised concerns about buildings that have had their class of occupancy changed to another without complying with proper processes prescribed in the Building Act (Regulations) chapter 301 or the PNG fire code.

“With increasing pressure for more accommodation or housing in our cities, many landlords and property owners are now letting out their properties for rent to meet this demand. Some landlords are converting their buildings, which were originally of a different class of occupancy, into rental or budget accommodation.”

Roo said while PNG Fire Service understands that there is an acute need for housing, there is no acceptable excuse to place vulnerable tenants in accommodation settings that are prone to fire risk or hazards.

PNG Fire Service is currently working with the Law Reform Commission on its 4th draft of the PNGFS legislation review, in which it hopes to see the enforcement of more stringent fire safety compliance measures.

Some of these measures will be aimed at improving fire safety standards in rental or budget accommodation.

“PNGFS anticipates that the new laws will be passed in the new parliament,” Roo iterates.  
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