PMD-related fires almost doubled last year: SCDF
All 102 cases involved non-UL2272-certified devices with some modification, mainly to the battery
There was a record 102 fires involving personal mobility devices (PMDs) last year, almost double from the year before.
Highlighting it as an area of concern in its release of annual statistics yesterday, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said PMD-related fires saw a sharp increase from 52 in 2018, and it has been on an upward trend since 2015, when there was only one such case.
Overall, SCDF responded to 2,862 fire-related calls last year, an 8 per cent increase fuelled by 883 vegetation fires - a 50 per cent jump from the year before.
SCDF excluded fires involving rubbish and rubbish chutes in their statistics as these pose a very low risk relative to other fires.
The one fire-related death recorded last year was the result of a PMD fire in Bukit Batok on July 18.
The blaze, linked to e-scooters being charged, left private-hire car driver Goh Keng Soon, 41, with third-degree burns on 40 per cent of his body.
Rescued from the burning flat, he died at Singapore General Hospital two days later.
But with a ban on e-scooters from footpaths that kicked in on Nov 5 last year and stricter regulations on the horizon, the situation could yet improve.
Assistant Commissioner (AC) Daniel Seet, SCDF's director of operations, said it has seen a drop in PMD fires last month compared with last December.
"This is still developing. We are closely monitoring it. Suffice to say, we are observing a downward trend," AC Seet said.
A government task force, comprising agencies such as SCDF and the Land Transport Authority (LTA), was set up last September to look into the issue.
Meanwhile, fires involving power-assisted bicycles (PABs) fell from 22 cases in 2018 to 13 last year. More than two-thirds of all PMD and PAB fires last year occurred in homes.
Fires involving PMDs and PABs also caused 46 injuries, including the one death, in 2019 - a 77 per cent jump from 26 in 2018. Most injuries involved smoke inhalation and minor burns. This is a third of the 142 fire-related injuries seen last year, up from 90 in 2018.
AC Seet said all 102 PMD fires last year involved non-UL2272 certified devices with some modification, mainly to the battery.
SCDF encouraged all owners of non-UL2272 certified PMDs to dispose of their devices at designated points. This will be free of charge until March 31.
From April, all e-scooters need to undergo inspections, and amendments to the Active Mobility Act this month will also give LTA powers to target retailers who modify or sell non-compliant devices. By July, all PMDs must be UL2272-certified.
Dropped light cases, involving the indiscriminate disposal of lit materials such as cigarette butts, remained the leading cause of fires last year, with fires of electrical origin second.
Fires outside buildings, like in vegetation or vehicles, saw a 30 per cent spike from 2018.
Vegetation fires made up a significant share of fires last year and were largely caused by sustained dry weather between January and March, as well as between July and September.
SCDF said it will continue to work closely with the Wildfire Task Force, which has been stepping up measures such as trimming overgrown vegetation at high-risk areas, and will increase patrols during dry periods.