Fires Set the Syrian Map Ablaze
With the temperature going low and weather depressions hitting Syria, the fires at homes and camps increase, though the reasons are various, the victims are always children.
The capital Damascus had the greatest share of these incidents, on top of which was the death of seven siblings on November 22, 2019, who died in a fire caused by an electric heater at the al-Amarah neighborhood, central Damascus, in addition to another incident for the same reason, which rendered a young man dead in the area of Sayyidah Zaynab.
Last month, the city of Aleppo registered the loss of a father with his three children in the al-Shaar neighborhood, who suffocated to death due to heater’s gas leakage, in addition to the several human casualties recorded in Northern Syria’s camps, who also died in fires, the last of whom was an internally displaced person at the al-Nasr camp, southern Idlib.
In most cases, recorded in the Syrian governorates and camps, the fires are attributed to misuse of heaters, especially electric ones, in addition to relying on unusable types of fuel, which contain high levels of gas that lead to suffocation.
Mustafa Haj Yousef, an official of the Syrian Civil Defense, said: “We are witnessing massive fires in the winter throughout Syria due to using poor quality fuel, Mazut, which is unusable, but the residents are forced to use it due to the economic status.”
This fuel is rich with gas, which causes fires. Gas also leaks and causes suffocations while the residents of the house or the tent cannot notice it, according to Haj Yousef, who added that what enhances the fires is that the camps’ tents are made of flammable materials, which need the simplest conditions to ignite.
Away from the camps, in residential areas in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and others, all the fires recorded in the past two weeks were caused by an electric contact and misuse of electricity heaters, especially the electric rag, used for heating, which caused the death of a young man in the Sayyidah Zaynab, rural Damascus, on November 24, 2019.
Fires Set Syrian Map Ablaze
More than 30 fires were documented by local and official networks, which spread in Damascus, its countryside, Homs, Hama, Tartous, Deir ez-Zor ans Aleppo, all are linked to misuse of electricity or gas leakage.
In Northern Syria, dozens of fires were recorded in the winter, most prominently the tent that caught on fire in the Kherbet Eljoz, southern Idlib, causing the death of an internally displaced man, preceded by the death of a child and the harming of his family members at the Zaroura camp in the city of Jarabulus, northern Aleppo.
The Syrian Civil Defense has also recorded that a woman and her three children were affected in a fire in their tents, having different degree burns, in the Atmeh area, Idlib, in addition to another fire in the al-Nour camp, northern Aleppo, which harmed a woman and her child last January.
The city of Maarrat al-Nu’man, southern rural Idlib, has also witnessed a massive fire last August due to the explosion of a power generator, causing an acute injury to the generator’s owner and two of the Civil Defense team’s members.
The fire extended to another area burning two schools, residential buildings and shops.
In April 2016, the Old Damascus area and its surrounding also endured similar fires, for more than 80 shops burned near the Damascus Castel, causing monetary losses of more than two billion Syrian pounds. Back then, the government of the Syrian regime attributed the fire to an electrical contact in one of the shops that spread to neighboring ones.
Disaster Prevention Instructions
The documentation of fires and recording the damage they cause is not enough, for steps must be undertaken as to prevent similar disasters in houses, through following instructions and raising citizen’s awareness. The following are a few tips advised by the Syrian Civil Defense.
“Needed precautions must be made at camps and homes through using fire extinguishing powder and other materials as emergency solutions upon fires until the firefighters reach the place,” Haj Yousef said.
He also advised that people refrain from using fuel rich in gas unless necessary and under specific conditions, through leaving the container open until gas is properly released, which prevent gas from leaking within tents and homes.
The civil Defense tries to answer all emergency calls, including those relating to fires, but the instructions are the best way to prevent fires from breaking, especially since the arrival of Fire Teams is not always quick either for the locations being far from the centers or the difficulty to reach the camps, Haj Yousef said.
Concerning the camps, the Civil Defense’s instructions include refrain from cooking inside the tents and showing great care upon operating the heaters, in addition to securing the electricity extensions, which mostly cause a contact that leads to fires.
Triggered by the repeated fires, the Syrian Red Crescent/SRC issued a number of instructions, including refrain from placing the heater near the curtains and flammable materials, keeping a fire blanket and training on using it, in addition to keeping children under watch and refrain from leaving them alone near the heaters.
The instructions also included that people refrain from leaving heaters on during sleep, fearing fires or suffocation, avoiding putting too much load on the electricity cables and extensions, not to connect an electric heater to power when it has bare or poor extensions, as this often causes electricity contact.
Instructors under SRC prefer that certain types of electricity heaters be purchased, which are automatically turned off upon falling, in keeping with quality and safety standards.
About the gas heaters, SRC advises that people make sure that gas is not leaking prior to turning them on, making sure that the cylinder is tightly closed when the heater is turned off, in addition to checking the pipe connecting the gas cylinder with the heater’s body, replacing the sealant and making sure that the valve is working.
Finally, in relation to woodfire stoves, it is advised that good ventilation be provided upon burning the wood within the stove, while they must not be left on during sleep.