Singapore

Tampines fire: Workers didn’t expect raging inferno

Employees flee blazing CK Building in Tampines as firefighters battle inferno

He was hard at work on the third storey of the CK Building in Tampines when the fire alarm sounded.

The employee, who declined to be identified, told The New Paper yesterday that he had evacuated as told.

He said: "I did not think it was serious as the smell of smoke was not strong. I thought it was a small fire."

Like him, workers from neighbouring buildings also told TNP they did not expect the fire to turn into a raging inferno.

BLAZE: It took SCDF five hours to get the fire in CK Building under control. PHOTOS: JONATHAN CHOO, ARIFFIN JAMAR, SCDF

But they were proven wrong.

The fire quickly spread shortly after the employee and 66 others fled the six-storey building in Tampines Street 92.

As a result of the fire, two buildings - 37A Tampines Street 92 and the ABR Building - along the same road were also evacuated as a precautionary measure.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it was alerted to the incident at around 1.30pm yesterday.

It deployed 110 firefighters and 23 vehicles to the scene.

The vehicles were two Red Rhinos, two ambulances, two fire bikes, five fire engines and 12 support vehicles, whichincluded four "crane-like aerial appliances" that have extendable ladders for officers to reach the fire on the upper levels.

Its operations department director, Assistant Commissioner Ling Young Ern, said it was the largest deployment of SCDF resources for an industrial estate fire this year.

In comparison, 150 officers and 38 vehicles were deployed on April 20 during the Jurong Island fire,which was not an industrial estate fire.

AC Ling said: "When we first arrived (at the CK Building), the fire was already raging and had fully engulfed the fourth and fifth storeys.

"The fire was also spreading to the sixth storey and we could see flames leaping out from all sides of the building."

The fourth to sixth storeys of the building were used as a warehouse, he said.

SCDF officers brought the fire under control by 6.15pm yesterday and no one from CK Building was injured in the incident.

But one firefighter was sent to hospital for heat exhaustion.

AC Ling said: "From what we observed, the intensity of the fire might have affected the structural integrity of certain parts of the building.

"We have to exercise due caution when we deploy our firefighters into the building to extinguish the remaining embers."

He also said the cause of the fire and where it started are still under investigation.

In an update from SCDF on its Facebook page yesterday, it said the "high fire load of the premises includes paper products, household items and aerosol cans which had generated intense heat impeding an interior attack".

SMOKE

On the way to the scene at around 2pm yesterday, TNP noticed thick plumes of smoke from as far as Kallang.

An acrid burning smell could be detected from Bedok North, about 2km away, and columns of fire were spotted from the shattered windows of the CK Building from the Pan Island Expressway.

Engineering assistant Hazizul Hakim, 28, who works in 37A Tampines Street 92, told TNP that he realised the seriousness of the situation only as he was evacuating.

He said: "We saw thick black smoke when we arrived downstairs.

"There were people passing out face masks because it became hard to breathe."

Madam Sharifah Ahmad, 42, who works in the same building,said: "The smell of the smoke was very strong. It was very chaotic and many people were seen running about, trying to get away from the fire."

Other CK employees were spotted at the scene yesterday, but they declined to comment.

Even though it was already under control, the fire was still burning as of 10.45pm yesterday.


About CK Building

The CK building at 39, Tampines Street 92 is the warehouse, head office and training facility for department store chain myCK.

The Straits Times reported in 2011 that the company bought the 102,000 sq foot, six-storey building from Mapletree Logistics Trust for about $15 million.

With 19 department store outlets in heartland estates like Bedok and Ang Mo Kio , myCK stocks everyday items including toiletries, clothing and food and drinks.

Formerly known as CK Department Store until a 2012 rebranding exercise, it has more than 30 own labels and carries brands like Johnson's and L'Oreal.

According to the company website, myCK has 400 employees.

The first outlet began its operations in Toa Payoh in 1997.

A Sunday Times article in 2011 reported that Mr Ang Chin Koon started the business after he was declared a bankrupt following a failed business. He picked himself up, borrowed money from relatives, friends and old business partners and founded the company.

Another The Straits Times article reported that he hopes to expand to 30 stores by 2020.

- Additional reporting by NOOR ASHIKIN ABDUL RAHMAN

fireTampinesSingapore Civil Defence Force