Fire destroys 60-year-old house

National 2 minutes, 24 seconds

BELAIT

A BLAZE completely destroyed a 60-year-old house before razing the upper floor of a neighbouring house at Jalan Sultan Sulaiman in Kuala Belait at 8am yesterday.

According to one of three residents who were at the first house at the time of the fire, the blaze originated behind a fridge located on the ground floor, minutes before 8am.

As the clock struck 8am, their neighbour Tan Kheng Huat saw a wall of smoke outside his house. The Fire and Rescue Department, responding to an emergency call at 8.08am, arrived 10 to 15 minutes later with three trucks and 10 firefighters.

By then the blaze had swept the entire first house, leaving firefighters to prioritise their efforts to battle the flames which had spread to the adjacent house’s top floor.

After 15 minutes, firefighters were able to control the fire from spreading further, but three rooms were severely hit.

All residents managed to escape both houses unharmed.

Assistant Commanding Officer of the Kuala Belait station Zulkeflee Awg Alimas said the first house’s compact design – fitting 12 rooms, all made of wood built on a single lot – accelerated the spread of the fire to the neighbouring house.

“There was very little distance between the two houses because one house had extended their rooms right to the very gate separating the two houses,” said Zulkeflee.

Tan agreed that the close proximity between both houses was a risk, and said the fire could have taken his family’s whole house if winds were more severe.

“The damage to the rooms is very serious, but on the other hand, at least the overall structure of the house is still standing and not burned to the ground,” he said.

The owner of the 12-bedroom house Hj Marusin Awg Damit said that he has been renting out the place for close to 40 years, mostly to foreign workers.

He added that there will be no compensation for the house, as companies were unwilling to insure the house due to its wooden structure.

“The house has a long history, so I am sad to see it go. At the same time this is fate, these things happen and we could not have prevented or predicted it. At this point I do not have a plan whether to rebuild it,” said Hj Marusin.

42-year-old Filipino Eugema Vellia Campos who was the first to spot the fire, said most of her house mates had already left for work before the fire broke out.

“I was getting ready to leave the house to go to work. Then I saw the smoke coming out from behind the fridge. I immediately informed the two others still in the house and then rushed to take my documents and electronics,” she said.

The Fire and Rescue Department are still investigating the cause behind the fire and have yet to finalise calculations on the total losses.

The Brunei Times