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Why can’t we prevent large warehouse fires?

Posted January. 08, 2022 07:58,   

Updated January. 08, 2022 07:58


Three firefighters were killed in Pyeongtaek warehouse fire that broke out at around 11:40 p.m. on Wednesday. It is the first time in about 21 years that three or more firefighters have been killed in one incident since a building collapsed in Seoul in 2001, killing six firefighters.

Fires in large warehouses can easily result in casualties. In April 2020, 38 were killed and 10 were injured in a fire broke out at a construction site of a logistics center in Icheon. In July of the same year, five were dead and eight were injured in a fire at a logistics center in Yongin. One consolation in these misfortunes is that no workers were injured or killed in a fire at a Coupang logistics center in Icheon in June or a fire in Pyeongtaek warehouse. However, one firefighter was killed battling a warehouse blaze at Coupang’s logistics center. As in that case, three firefighters entered the Pyeongtaek warehouse after big fire was brought under control, but could not make it back alive as fire began to spread again.

A recurrence of similar incidents after a half a year means that there is a flaw in firefighting command system. The warehouse in Pyeongtaek is where the e-commerce company Market Kurly was supposed to use under lease agreement. Logistics centers are mushrooming near large cities with a rapid surge in online shopping. Logistics centers are prone to fire. Since people do not live there, they are mainly built with combustible materials. Such as “sandwich panel.” Fires at these logistics centers are not easily extinguished as those warehouses are not obligated to install firewalls, which is a must in residential facilities. In addition, firefighters are easily isolated while extinguishing a fire at warehouses since the buildings are usually huge and become extremely dark when a fire breaks out. This is why firefighters are in urgent need of firefighting equipment and manuals to effectively deal with fires in warehouses.

A fall accident occurred in December 2020 at the same construction site, where the fire broke out this time. At the time, five workers fell from the fifth floor while assembling iron rods, resulting in three deaths and two injuries. The site has been under special supervision by the government since that accident, but this time fire broke out there. It also needs to be checked if there were any shortcomings in the safety measures placed by the government.