For the fourth time in six years, another major fire broke out in Chamkhar town in Bumthang. This time, four buildings housing 22 shops and homes were razed.
Fortunately, no casualties were reported andthe fire was contained from destroying more buildings. Unfortunately, two houses had to be demolished to prevent the fire from spreading.
We applaud the efforts of the firefighters, both official and volunteers. Their selfless efforts have definitely minimised damage to property and life.
However, what we must question is whether the dzongkhag’s fire prevention plan was adequate enough. How could a fourth major fire occur and raze so many buildings and shops again. Already three fires have occurred in this same town, one as a result of arson. Lives were lost in the first fire. Millions of Ngultrums have been spent in rebuilding Chamkhar town.
Some are already talking about arson. But before such rumours are spread, we must allow the authorities to conduct an investigation and determine the cause of the fire. Until that investigation is completed, let us assume that the cause is not arson. While it is early, authorities are already ruling out electricity and are suspecting gas to be a possible culprit.
The way Chamkhar town is built, with wooden structures standing end to end, there is undeniably a risk of fire spreading rapidly. There must have been many new measures put in place to minimise the risk of another fire such as awareness on fire prevention, fire fighting equipment, and other strategies. Were these measures enough? Was this fire preventable or a freak accident?
There has to be accountability if enough was not done or negligence was involved. Even if this was another freak fire, an investigation must be conducted to ensure that more than sufficient fire prevention awareness was carried out, and adequate fire fighting equipment was in place and working to full capacity.
Since many fires have occurred in Chamkhar, we would expect that every household or business was equipped with at least a fire extinguisher or fire buck and that regular drills or inspections were carried out by the authorities and citizens.
We would expect that perhaps even a water source, such as a pond or fire hydrant may have been in place by now.
With other towns built in similar fashion, questions will have to be asked and answers found. It will only strengthen our fire prevention and fighting capabilities all over the country. We cannot afford anymore fires in not only Chamkhar but any of our other settlements.
It is hoped that authorities concerned nationwide have measures in place and are pursuing strategies to minimise both urban and forest fires, and most importantly, we the citizens, have made and continue to make efforts to minimise the chances of fires breaking out in our homes.