Fico blaze prompts Bangkok City Hall sprinkler initiative

Bangkok’s City Hall is preparing a law that would require old buildings to install sprinkler systems in the wake of the Fico Place building fire this weekend near Asoke intersection.

The massive fire on the upper floors of the 13-story Fico building on Soi 21 caused the closure of Asoke Road as firefighters fought the blaze on Saturday March 3. No civilians were reported hurt or killed, but The Nation reported that two firemen were slightly injured. Photos of the inferno by Gavin Nazareth, who was at the scene, can be found below.

The 33-year-old Fico Place was built before the 1992 Building Safety Control Act that requires sprinkler systems and there are roughly 1,000 other buildings like it in the Thai capital.

The new ordinance drafted by the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority would require all buildings to install adequate sprinkler systems, Deputy Bangkok Governor Teerachon Manomaiphibul said yesterday according to the Bangkok Post. Many of the older buildings without sprinkler systems are located around Silom and Yaowarat roads, Mr. Teerachon said.

The fire started on the seventh floor of Fico but quickly spread to higher floors, partly because of the lack of a good sprinkler system.

Chollachai Thammaviwatanukul, an adviser to the Building Safety Inspectors and Officers Association, said that it will be extremely difficult to upgrade the old buildings though.

“It’s quite difficult, particularly for a building that is being used, to have a sprinkler system installed as the system must comprise a source of water, water pump, pipes and sprinkler heads, all of which are not easy to install in existing buildings,” Mr Chollachai told the Post.

A possible alternative would be a smoke detector system with links to the property management unit, internet or mobile phone network.

Experts from the Engineering Institute of Thailand inspected the burned-out building yesterday March. 5. It has been declared off limits until experts can determine whether it is safe to enter.

Thanet Wirasiri, the EIT’s secretary-general, said before the inspection yesterday that a structure is usually safe if it burns for under four hours and the Fico Place blaze lasted for two hours.

Police are investigating the cause of the blaze which could be due to eletrcial faults or human causes, Thong Lor police chief Pol Col Ratthasak Raksalam said.

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