Contact us for safety checks, says Fire and Rescue Dept

SULAIMAN JAAFAR

KOTA BARU: The Kelantan Fire and Rescue Department had recorded seven cases of fire at pondok and religious schools in the last five years, with three last year.

Two of the fires involved houses and a girls’ hostel at the well-known and biggest pondok in Kelantan at Pasir Tumbuh here, while in another incident 40 units of pondok at the Madrasah Addiniah Yusuffiah, or known locally as Pondok Gelang Emas in Pasir Mas were razed to the ground.

The fire at Madrasah Al-Badriah at Jal Besar at the end of February was the latest in the series of incidents. It was a miracle that in all cases, no death or injuries were reported.

Fire and Rescue director-general Datuk Wira Wan Mohd Nor Wan Ibrahim said most of the pondok were built on an ad-hoc basis and without proper planning.

He said the security aspect was not taken into account during the constructions and most of them had only one exit, which would cause a problem during a fire.

“The gap between one pondok and another is too close and sometimes a hostel which is full of students has only one exit. If the exit is on fire, the students have no alternative and no way to escape,” he said here recently.

Wan Mohd Nor said the department was working with the body that coordinates the pondok schools to conduct safety checks at their premises, but the problem was not all pondok were members of the association.

“The safety aspect will be the main issue which we will prioritise during the inspections.

“We will also advise the management (on other various aspects). We need their cooperation.

“Contact us so that we can do the checks, as we do not know most of their locations,” he said.

Wan Mohd Nor said it was also holding talks with an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department, which is in charge of pondok schools, to hold a programme, not only in Kelantan but throughout the country.

“Among the focus is the formation of fire-fighting squads at the pondok. This is one of our long-term plan,” he said.