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Vulnerability of the People to Fire Hazard: A case study in Planned & Unplanned P part of Dhaka City

Bijoy Kumar Roy, *Dr. Nasreen Ahmad

Department of Geography & Environment, University of Dhaka, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh

*Corresponding author: Dr. Nasreen Ahmad, Department of Geography & Environment, University of Dhaka, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh, E-mail: , Tel.:

Fire incident occurs due to lack of awareness of mass people, use of highly inflammable material, open flames for cooking, lighting and in low income residential areas maintenance of little or no gaps among structures. Fires cause the utmost loss of life and property in urban areas. Urban fires have overwhelming impact on communities. Unplanned urbanization has intensified the problem further. The number of fire incidents in Dhaka was 1,861 in 2003, 2,053 in 2004, and 2,279 in 2005 and 14921 in 2010 (Fire Service and Civil Defense, 2011). To mitigate such disasters at community level, community participation is important. Frequency of fire incidences is a common phenomenon in Dhaka city, particularly in dry season. Fire breaks out in slums, garment factories and small manufacturing industries and is regular news item during the season. Fire causes a lot of loss of numerous lives and valuable properties in the city as well as other metropolitan areas of the country. With the increase of industrial establishments, mainly small industries, the number of fire incidences is increasing rapidly. Although there are a couple of fire stations in Dhaka City, an integrated framework of fire hazard management is non-existent. Such a framework, combined with information and communication system, has the potential to alleviate the damages and sufferings of the people.

Fire was discovered for better living and building structure developed for improved and comfortable livelihood. With the course of time the desire of comfort and improved living concluded the acceleration of building construction. The alarming rates of population growth together with fragile economy instigate people to live in urban areas. Limitations of urban land together with high claim of building infrastructure compel creation of high rise building.

Excessive cost of land and clumsy regulatory and planning authorities help to construct buildings of larger floors and levels than the normally allowed. Thus the urban areas mostly Dhaka city has transformed to a hectic city engaging its inhabitant into approximately all types of artificial hazards of life. Fire is one of those hazards whose frequency is mounting day by day, mostly in buildings. In Dhaka, fire is an uncontrollable risk especially in high rise buildings mostly constructed violating the national building code. The frequency of fire event is common in Dhaka city, mainly in dry season. Fire occur in the slum areas, garments factories and manufacturing industries and are common news topic during the season. Because of fire incidence there are loss of numerous lives and valuable properties in the city. Dhaka is the most densely populated city in the world with a population of about 15 million in an area of 1528 is one of the vulnerable places where fire occurrence are very common. Fires cause the greatest loss of life and property in urban areas. Urban fires have devastating impact on communities. Unplanned urbanization has intensified the problem further. By the sheer population size, Dhaka is the 10th largest megacity in the world; and it may turn into the 4 th largest by the year 2020. To meet the residential, Industrial, institutional and commercial need of the people, the city is increasingly growing vertically and also expanding horizontally. Due to uneven level of income Dhaka city do not grow in a planned way. Unplanned building, high rate of urbanization, high population growth, low level of income, lack of active government may be the main cause of fire hazard in Dhaka city.


Fire Hazard is a most common phenomenon in Dhaka city. Unplanned high rise buildings, over population, lack of responsibility on the part of the government may be the main causes behind this. The aim of this study is to find the actual causes of fire hazard in Dhaka city. How can people, organization, or personnel minimize their losses by this fire hazard? This is on what the study will focus. The specific objectives are: To know the spatial and temporal dimension of fire hazard in Dhaka City. To identify the actual causes of fire in Dhaka city. Show the road connectivity of hazardous area. To identify the location of fire station of Dhaka city and its accessibility.

Identify the last 10 years fire incident and seasonal variation. Social, economical and environmental vulnerability of fire in the city. Create awareness among the people of the area researched. Identify the comparative risk analysis on planned (Basundhara residential area and unplanned ( Nimtoli area). Identify the gap area where there is no fire station at all. Identify the fire station covered area.

Year and number of Fire Incident in Dhaka City

Month January February March April May June July August September October November December Total 2005 165 173 133 121 82 80 81 89 93 81 124 121 1343 2006 117 104 132 133 106 92 71 90 97 88 91 99 1220 2007 143 101 129 78 77 80 71 84 63 84 97 93 1100 2008 118 127 123 100 87 70 60 80 64 85 95 101 1110 2009 121 143 247 132 152 131 106 125 118 160 153 187 1775 2010 183 214 209 175 169 176 145 149 133 160 197 158 2068 2011 196 229 213 -

Source : BFSCD Head quarter, Collection date 7 th June,2011


Dhaka city is the selected area for research as it is over populated and has hazardous conditions. It has a wide variety of land use and a diverse physical character. There are residential, commercial, industrial, educational institutes, and also mixed land use pattern see in this area. Most of the area of Dhaka city has grown an in un-planned way. Nimtoli (as unplanned area) and Basundhara residential area ( as newly built-up / planned area) have been selected for study.

Fire vulnerability analysis:





Critical Facilities Analysis

This analysis focuses on determining the vulnerabilities of key individual facilities, lifelines or resources within the community. Primary steps that were followed in this analysis are: 1.To complete a critical facilities inventory and categorize the results 2.To identify intersections of critical facilities with high risk areas 3.To conduct a vulnerability assessment on highest risk critical facilities

Social vulnerability analysis:

In this study social vulnerability has been analyzed in two steps. 1. Identifying areas of special consideration. At first special consideration areas were identified by population, gender, age group of people

and literacy rate. It was done by analyzing census data prepared by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistic (BBS, 2000). 2. Identifying intersections of special consideration areas with high-risk areas. After that these areas were intersected with the location of highly vulnerable buildings.

Economic vulnerability analysis:

The purpose of this analysis was to identify economic vulnerability to fire hazard. To analyze this vulnerability three steps were taken. They are: 1. Economic sectors and its inventories were selected from the study area by land use survey and were located in the map. 2. The economic center maps were overlaid with the fire risk consideration areas analyzed its vulnerability. 3. General inventory of the economic center within the high vulnerable consideration area was prepared.

Environmental vulnerability analysis:

To accomplish environmental vulnerability two steps have been followed: 1. Identification of secondary hazard risk consideration sites and key environmental resource sites. Secondary impacts occur when natural hazard events create new hazards such as toxic releases or hazardous spills.

2. Intersection of secondary risk sites and fire risk consideration areas. This was done by overlaying the environmental sites with the hazard risk consideration areas. (Source: Islam,Md. Sayeedul, Roy, Debasis and Islam, Md. Saiful,2007)

Figure (a): The reason behind Fire incidence: (Nimtoli Area)

Reasons Behind Fire Incident

13.04% 42.03% 26.09% Electrical discrepancies Cooking stoves Gas line 15.94% 2.90% Mosquito coil Chemical warehouse

In ward no - 69 of Nimtoli, where fire incident occurred due to located there were chemical warehouses. Electrical short circuits and others are also another most important cause for fire incident in this area. Figure (b): The reason behind fire incidence:( Bosundhara residential area)
50 40 30 20 10 0 Percentage(%)

There are no chemical ware houses in this survey area. Electrical short circuits sometimes cause fire. Need more awareness among the residents as to what causes fire.

Map: Area Covered by Fire Stations

Area Covered by Fire Stations

Map: By this research it is find out that one fire station can do their activities perfectly surrounding two kms. only. And some fire stations overlap both in the right side there is no fire station at all. Lack of planning may be the cause of this situation.

Map: Area that out of Fire station.

Map : By this map it is easily identify the area where there is no fire station at all. So, how can this areas people way out if any fire occur.

There is no space between/among buildings.

There is enough space between buildings.

Photograph 01: Nimtoli areas Settlement pattern

Photograph 02: Bosundhara areas Settlement

Comments: In the first photograph we see that there is no space among buildings. So, if any fire incidence occur than all the building may destroy. And in the second photograph we see that there is enough space between buildings.

Photograph 01: Nimtoli areas narrow road network.

Photograph 02: Bosundhara areas wide road network.

Comments: In the 1 st image we see that the narrow road network of Nimtoli area. Fire station is very close to the Nimtoli area, but due to narrow road network, it is quite impossible to enter Fire car in this area and that is why June, 2010 fire occurred and 123 people lost their lives. And in the 2nd image we easily see that very wide road network in the Bosundhara residential area.

Following aspects should be considered for reducing fire hazard: Need to launch awareness programs in study area cause people who are educated but not
aware of fire hazard.

Adequate fire safety system should be installed in high rise building. Compulsory
installation of adequate fire and smoke detectors, automatic sprinklers, warning systems and extinguishers should be enforced in all the fire prone commercial, storage and manufacturing areas of different locations in 69(Nimtoli areas) number words of Dhaka city.

The people in general should be educated on matters of fire protection. They should be
imparted knowledge of the causes of fire drills be organized to make sure that peoples in all premises known how to use the fire extinguishment equipment, where the nearest exit is, and how to leave the building calmly and safely.

Knowledge develops including education, training, research and information. Public commitment and instrumental frameworks, including organizational policy,
legislation and community action are needed. By knowledge, values and attitudes public participation most significantly reduce the loss of human lives and the material damages caused by hazards.

Government, NGOs and civil society can play a vital role in awareness program.
Government organizations and other non-government organization will work together to reduce the number of fire incidents in the long run. They can arrange different type of program to aware people of the society. In rural areas GOs and NGOs will talk with stake holders who are vulnerable and try to understand their perception about accidents and also try to motivate them to use initiatives fire protection about accidents and also try to understand their protection systems and safety. Government should arrange special program to reduce the losses, awareness raising and training program, day observation, seminar, open discussion, rally etc. they also introduce the fire safety behavior in school level as the children will learn about fire hazard. Along with the formal education, government also can introduce the fire prevention behavior in non formal education.

The building codes which the Rajdhani Unnyan Kartipakkha(RAJUK) has outlined for
the owners of the building are not followed by most of the owners. So owners of apartment, complexes, buildings and offices must be compelled under the law to adopt safety measures of their own. In this regard provisions for emergency exits and firefighting equipment assure unquestioned importance.

Close surveillance should be taken regularly in locality by City Corporation.

Media campaign can help to solve the problem. TV channels and newspaper can play
vital role to create awareness in community level. Fire protection slide show can be displayed all over in every cinema hall, Radio, TV news and electronics media can aired fire protection activities and also can display the feature and information of fire hazard.

To serve people properly, fire man and fire station should be increased. It is not enough
to increase the fire station and fire man but also have to be increased the fire equipments. After the independence of Bangladesh BFCD have modernized but cars and equipments lack behind.

Development of Fire Risk Management System is necessary to mitigate loss from fire

Regularly and proper fire inspection and maintenance of electricity supply lines can
reduce the hazard of fire.

What should we do?? Government should take proper initiatives to minimize unplanned high rising building and building code should be maintained. Knowledge should be developed including education, training, research and information. Government, NGOs, voluntary organization, media and civil society can play a vital role in awareness program about fire hazard. In every house, institution, shopping mall, industry should be used fire extinguisher and they have to know how to use it properly. New fire stations should be built in east side of Dhaka city as I show my research map. Give more training to the fire service officials as well as house caretaker or individual. Build more fire stations in Thana level. Electrical instrument, gas line should be checked up regularly. Fire hazard is an accidental cause but we have to know, how we can minimize our loss from fire occurrence.

Fire is essential part of day to day life. But people often become unaware of its devastating nature. For the purpose of ensuring safety, it is required to develop awareness regarding the potential hazards of fire and take precautionary measures accordingly. This paper presented an overview of the characteristics of fire incidences occurring in Dhaka City. It is observed that the industrial areas are the most hazardous with respect to frequency of fire incidents. The results also suggest than most of the fire incidences occurred during afternoon and electrical fault is the most important cause of fire incidences in Dhaka city. The analysis also reveals that even the most hazardous areas are not well covered by the fire stations. Urban fire incidents have been determined to have a high likelihood of occurrence in our country especially during the dry season. Although fire hazard characterization information is available in the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense (BFSCD), no further mentionable vulnerability or risk assessment has been performed for this hazard. As a result, fire hazard vulnerable area which is not assessed for this hazard may catch fire and cause a lot of human death and economic loss. This can negatively affect our economy of the country. Fire destroy not only individual properties but also responsible for the properties of a nation. So, giving it a national priority we have to control the fire incidents. It is the best time for awareness. Fire hazard is one of the major risk in Dhaka City due to over population, unplanned buildings, lake of open space between buildings, lack of awareness among city dwellers, lack of proper initiative of government, narrow roads, lack of implementation of laws, use combustible material & mixed land use pattern, haphazard electrical wire line, leakage of gas line may be the cause behind fire occurrence. So, if we want to save our life and as well as property we must take proper initiative as indicated in this research paper.

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