Electricity Thefts Behind Rise in Jakarta Fires

Kamis, 05 Januari 2012 | 09:15

Jakarta recorded 948 fire incidents in 2011, a sharp increase from the previous year, largely due to people trying to steal electricity from power posts and grids.At least 18 people, including one firefighter, were killed in last year’s fires, Paimin Napitupulu, the Jakarta Fire and Disaster Mitigation Agency chief, said on Tuesday. Another 87 residents and 13 firefighters were injured.

Last year’s fires are estimated to have cost at least Rp 217 billion ($23.9 million).

The number of fires rose from 698 recorded in 2010.

“The drought season, with its dry winds blanketing Jakarta, often contributed to major fires, but 60 percent of fires originated from short-circuits,” Paimin said.

The agency head said that most of the cases occurred in slums and crowded areas where people often stole electricity from state utility company Perusahaan Listrik Negara.

The Jakarta administration, he said, is drafting a regulation that allows city officials to better prevent electricity theft, adding that PLN had done little to monitor and address the problem.

Paimin also cited the logistical difficulties associated with some of Jakarta’s heavily crowded housing areas, where firefighters often face problems getting fire trucks and equipment through the maze of alleyways and access to a water supply can be limited.

For crowded areas, he said the government was educating local residents to be prepared with proper training and equipment.

“People should be vigilant. In cases of fire, people should act quickly to extinguish or contain the fire instead of doing nothing and waiting for firefighters to arrive,” he said.

The fire-fighting agency is also short-staffed. Paimin said that this year, 144 of 2,904 firefighters would reach retirement age, while the agency is struggling to replenish its ranks.

“That is why we are asking for more manpower for this agency,” he said. “The need is urgent. If not fulfilled, we will face a manpower crisis in the next three years.”

Inggard Joshua, the deputy speaker of the Jakarta Legislative Council, said the agency could recruit more staff from other city departments.

“Right now, there are too many Satpol PP officers,” he said, referring to the Public Order Agency.

“These Satpol PP officers can be trained to fight fire at the fire fighting training facility in Ciracas [East Jakarta]. They could serve as permanent or temporary firefighters for the city.”

Source : http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/