Vehicle fire incidents have become a rising and worrying trend of emergency calls. Stakeholders are taking seriously the efforts to tackle and take proactive actions towards reducing the occurrence of such incidences. A joint media conference between the Fire and Rescue Department, Royal Brunei Police Force and Land Transport Department was held this morning at the Multipurpose Hall, Fire and Rescue Department in Berakas.
Although the Fire and Rescue Department has recorded a decrease in 2018 with 64 cases compared to 101 cases in the previous year, however, in the first five months of this year the department's statistics have shown an increase of 12 cases. Throughout January to May this year, the department has received 35 calls regarding such cases compared to 23 calls last year. During the media conference, Awang Haji Nordin bin Haji Buntan, Acting Senior Superintendent of Fire and Rescue Department explained some of the causes of vehicle fires and advises drivers to equip their vehicles with portable fire extinguishers as well as contact the Fire and rescue Department's emergency line 995, in the occurrence of a vehicle fire. According to Awang Haji Nordin, the estimated loss in 2018 is 151 thousand 850 dollars and the estimated loss within the first five months of this year is 159 thousand 800 dollars. The cause of the vehicle fires include electrical problems in the vehicle engine, mechanical problems such as faulty components, leakages in vehicle components or loose connections. Apart from that, fires that are suspicious or believed to be arson, such cases have been handed over to the police.
Awang Md Baharin Shah bin Haji Abu Bakar, Acting Head of Investigation and Research Unit, Traffic Control and Investigation Department, Royal Brunei Police Force also explained that an official investigation form will be opened every time a report on a fire is received and will be investigated in an organised manner as well as identify the cause or motif of the incident. Awang Md Baharin Shah added that based on the investigation report, if it is found to have criminal elements, the Royal Brunei Police Force will submit the results of the investigation to the Court for the charges. The offence of arson can be charged under sections 435, 436, 437 read with section 438 of the Penal Code Chapter 22 and if found guilty will be sentenced accordingly, in short, imprisonment of up to 15 years and not less than 6 strokes of the cane, life imprisonment and the death penalty.
Based on statistics from the Land Transport Department, offences of modifying the vehicle design and electronic wiring system which are among the causes of vehicle fires, are on the rise. Last year, 425 offences were recorded compared to 97 offences in 2017. From January to the 16th of May this year alone, 124 offences have been recorded. Sheikh Mohd Yusri bin Sheikh Haji Abd Kadir, Senior Enforcement Officer, Land Transport Department stressed that any vehicle modifications from the original design is an offence under the Road Traffic Act Chapter 68. Sheikh Mohd Yusri added that to prevent the occurrence of vehicle fires in the country, the Road Safety Council and Land Transport Department advise the public especially motor vehicle workshop operators and owners as well as individuals in the country to stop carrying out any modifications to the vehicle's original design, or modifications to the electronic wiring system without following the vehicle's original specifications. Ensure that the mechanic is qualified, carry out regular maintenance on the engine and vehicle system according to the correct procedures and the stipulated periods.