Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong asked the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what is the cause and origin of the Jurong West market and coffeeshop fire; (b) how did the fire spread quickly and widely; (c) whether the presence of automatic sprinkler systems at the market and coffeeshop would have slowed or stopped the fire from spreading; and (d) whether the risks of fire spreading and requirements to minimise the risks for markets and coffeeshops should be reviewed for the Fire Code.
Mr K Shanmugam: Police believe that the Jurong West market fire on 11 October 2016 was caused by arson. Police have arrested a male Chinese. He has been charged. Investigations at the incident site revealed that fire was set to several styrofoam and cardboard boxes at two different stalls. As a result, the fire spread quickly from these two areas to the other parts of the market. The fire was set probably at about 2.30am in the morning. The SCDF received multiple 995 calls about the fire at 2.42am and arrived within six minutes. By 4.26am, the fire was fully extinguished. The property damage was extensive and three residents who had breathing difficulties were conveyed to hospital.
The SCDF adopts a risk-based approach in prescribing mandatory fire safety requirements for building premises. Automatic fire sprinklers have not been a requirement for all buildings. Such systems are useful in controlling fire spread in higher risk premises, such as those with a large open floor area of more than 4,000 square metres, high-rise enclosed buildings of more than 24 metres in height, or enclosed basements. It has not been mandatory for wet markets like the Jurong West market, which are not enclosed and are designed to be well ventilated.
The deliberate act here is more appropriately dealt with as a criminal act. SCDF’s assessment is that there is no need for additional Fire Code requirements on all wet markets.