The fire at the Hashem Foods factory in Rupganj of Narayanganj is one of the longest lasting ones that occurred since the country's liberation war, concerned persons have said.
A total of 17 units of the fire service were engaged for 19 hours to bring the fire under control.
Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence Directorate sources said the fire broke out at the factory at 5:42pm on Thursday and was tamed at 12:35pm on Friday.
Merely spraying water is not enough to extinguish fire that broke out in the factory godown that housed flammable substances. Some chemicals have to be mixed to extinguish the fire
Sources said it had taken 19 hours to bring the fire under control at Dignity Textiles Limited of Betjuri in Sreepur upazila, Gazipur in 2015. The factory built on a steel structure was burnt to ashes but no one was killed in the fire.
Another fire broke out at a chemical godown at Churir Hatta in Old Dhaka on 20 February 2019. It took about eight hours to extinguish the fire and 78 people were killed in the incident.
Earlier, the Tampako Foil Factory in Gazipur caught fire on 10 September 2016. It took about six hours to bring the fire under control.
About the lengthy duration of the fire, experts said it is not possible to extinguish fire of flammable substances only by spraying water. In some cases, the fire increases with the spraying water.
The Hashem Foods Limited factory had flammable substances and chemicals. There were edible oil, plastic material, foil and liquids.
BUET mechanical engineering department professor Md Maksud Helali said it needs to be learnt why it took so many hours to extinguish the fire. The existence of flammable substances needed to be taken into consideration when, extinguishing the fire. Merely spraying water merely is not enough to extinguish the fire that broke out in the factory godown that housed flammable substances. Some chemicals have to be mixed to extinguish the fire.
"We have to know whether that was done or not," the BUET professor added.
The Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) sources said if there are chemicals and flammable substances in any building, the authorities have to submit an inventory of this to the local office of DIFE. Letters have been issued more than once from DIFE for the inspection of the Hashem Foods factory building. As permission were not given, the officials could not inspect what was kept on the different floors of the building.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, DIFE deputy inspector general Soumen Barua said, "The Hashem Foods Limited took licence from the head office of DIFE in 2000. Afterwards they renewed the licence every year. We asked to inspect the building, but did not get permission. So we don't know what type of flammable substance was in the building."
The fire service and civil defence said the fire incidents are increasing regularly. Stoves, power connections and cigarette mainly cause fires. According to the agency, a total of 17,488 fire incidents took place in 2015 and a total of 21,073 incidents in 2020.
Fire service and civil defence former director general and retired brigadier general Ali Ahammed Khan said flammable substances should be kept in a designated place of a building so that the fire does not spread quickly if the building catches fire.
DIFE and the local administration should regularly monitor the security system and the connections of power and gas of the buildings, he said adding otherwise it would be difficult to bring such a fire under control.
Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) former executive director Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed said the incidents of such fires are happening repeatedly as those responsible are not brought to book.
The persons responsible for the incidents of fires at Finix, Tazreen, Rana Plaza and others were not brought to justice. So the owners of factories do not take any step to improve their firefighting systems, Ahmed pointed out.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print and online editions, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.