MP Gerald Giam

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Home Affairs regarding the fire at East Coast Road on 9 January 2023 (a) whether the pit cover of the nearest fire hydrant was stuck and, if so, why and what was done to dislodge it; and (b) whether the delay in drawing water from the nearest hydrant caused the fire to spread to more houses.

Mr K Shanmugam: Mr Gerald Giam1 had a related question scheduled for a future Sitting. I will address these questions together for a holistic reply.

In the fire incident that the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) attended to at East Coast Road on 9 January 2023, SCDF responders were initially unable to remove the pit cover of the nearest fire hydrant. They immediately used the next nearest hydrant and established water supply within minutes.

Despite the stuck pit cover, the firefighting operation was not affected as there was sufficient water from the fire engine’s internal water tank before the hydrant water supply was established. The pit cover of the nearest fire hydrant was subsequently removed and water was tapped from it to support the firefighting operations.

 In this incident, the pit cover was difficult to remove due to an accumulation of dirt and sediment around the seams of the pit cover. This may occur occasionally, especially after a period of wet weather. Prior to the incident, the affected hydrant was inspected by SCDF in December 2021 and subsequently by the Public Utilities Board (PUB) in March 2022.

Singapore has a network of approximately 23,000 public hydrants. They are tested annually for serviceability. This hydrant would have been tested again within this work year, by March 2023. A typical test will include functional checks on the hydrant including the removal of the pit cover followed by the measurement of its water flow and pressure. These tests are in addition to the periodic hydrant inspection by the PUB.

 The annual fire hydrant testing regime is adequate in mitigating the risk of major defects between inspections. Furthermore, given the relatively short distance (in many cases) between each hydrant, SCDF’s responding crew will generally be able to quickly tap on alternative water sources should the need arise.

Ministry of Home Affairs
7 February 2023

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