Of all the countries of the Gulf region, few seem to generate almost daily news stories quite like the Emirate of Dubai and recent weeks have continued to bear this out.
In the afternoon of 20th July, yet another tall tower fire broke out, this time in the 75-storey Sulafa Tower, located opposite Oceana Towers and the Westin Hotel in the Marina district of Dubai.
The alarm was raised at about 1430 hrs and once again it appeared that the fire had all the hallmarks of yet another outbreak involving aluminium composite facade panels (ACP’s), as have a number of tower fires over the past 18 months or so. Fortunately, all residents were safely evacuated and despite high winds, 50 Civil Defence firefighters with 12 pumps brought the fire under control within two hours. There were no reported serious injuries.
Several eye-witness reported that burning external cladding and other debris could be seen flying all over the neighbourhood as strong winds made the job very difficult for the firefighters. One said it seemed that the fire seemed to be playing hide and seek with the fire crews, as flames erupted from one floor to another.
Such comments add to the continuing widespread concern regarding the use of flammable ACP’s on many of Dubai’s tall towers. Major General Rashid Thani Al Matroushi, Director of Dubai Civil Defence, said the forthcoming revised UAE code will hold construction companies accountable if fire safety rules are not followed and this may result in criminal liabilities.
He also said the new regulations will be supervised by both the Civil Defence and the Municipality. Major General Matroushi stated that less than one per cent of fire incidents in Dubai were serious, 90 per cent were minor, and the rest moderate. The General said that there are more than 1,000 buildings that have facade cladding, and there had been three fires in Dubai involving such buildings.
The General’s comments came following an earlier announcement of a new award for innovation in fire safety. The award, he said, is aimed at encouraging creative and innovative people and to effectively promote fire safety. It also aims to promote the spirit of innovation among students in universities, support innovators and encourage them to contribute actively in maintaining the safety and security of their communities. Turning scientific research and innovative ideas into viable projects and benefiting from international experiences will assist in raising the efficiency of the Civil Defence in the country.
The award will have three categories, one for those working in firefighting in the UAE, one for students in schools and universities, and one for those working in the field of firefighting internationally. Winners will get a cash prize, in addition to intellectual property rights and a certificate of recognition, as well as an opportunity to showcase their innovation at an annual International Conference for Fire Engineers in London.
Another more recent global focus on Dubai was on 3rd August with the dramatic crash landing of the Emirates Boeing 777 at Dubai International Airport. Thankfully, all 275 passengers and crew evacuated the aircraft safely, but immediately afterwards leaking fuel ignited, causing part of the aircraft to fly off and fatally injure Firefighter Jasim Eisa Al Baloushi who was a member of one of the first airport fire and rescue crews at the scene of the crash landing.
As the wide family of Gulf firefighters mourned Al Baloushi’s death, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, praised Firefighter Al Baloushi on Twitter, describing men like him as Emiratis who “many generations can be proud of”. An Obituary of Firefighter Al Baloushi appears on Page 4 of this edition of Gulf Fire.
Statistics continue to tell us that flying is still one of the safest forms of transport. However, Airport Fire and Rescue and Civil Defence crews and their fire tenders, although often unseen around airport terminals and runways, provide an ever-alert rapid response to any aircraft that develops an emergency as was the case at Dubai International Airport on the 3rd August.
And praise must also go to the Emirates flight deck and cabin crew of the Boeing 777 for getting all passengers safely off the stricken aircraft and down the emergency chutes without any serious injuries.
This edition of Gulf Fire contains a wide spread of news and expert editorial features on best practice topics drawn from the region and beyond. Amongst these are features on fire engineering; wireless fire alarms on construction sites; fire risk assessments; electrical fire safety; firefighting in tall towers; heavy rescue; and planning for emergencies. I trust that readers will find plenty of interest on the pages of Gulf Fire and, perhaps, some new horizons.