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Fire safety training for West Coast stallholders

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West Coast stallholders to take 1-day course

When a fire broke out in the stall across from his at West Coast Market Square, Mr Mohd Zairuddin Onan swung into action.

As the flames began to engulf the prawn noodle stall's exhaust system, Mr Zairuddin headed for the hawker centre's nearest fire extinguisher. Thanks to the fire safety training he had undergone, he knew not to try to douse the grease fire with water.

"It was a big fire that caused heavy damage, but we managed to prevent it from spreading to other stalls," Mr Zairuddin, 53, who runs a Muslim food stall, told The Straits Times.

The incident occurred five years ago, but it remained fresh in his mind as he underwent a refresher course conducted by the Singapore Civil Defence Force last month.

Yesterday, he was one of about 40 stallholders at the Clementi hawker centre and market to receive a fire extinguisher for completing the one-day community preparedness programme organised by the West Coast 726 Hawkers' Association and community partners.

The aim is to train more hawkers in how to react if there is a fire or other emergency, association chairman Ng Yong Wah said.

"Lately in Singapore we've had a lot of hawker centres that have these fires. So we want to encourage stallholders to learn what to do, as well as skills like CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)," said Mr Ng, 71.

The association aims to get at least half of the nearly 200 stalls at West Coast Market Square to complete the course by the end of the year, he added.

An overheated wok caused a fire to break out at a hawker centre in Telok Blangah in February. In March, a fire in the electrical switch room of Newton Food Centre led to a power outage.

Earlier this month, a blaze that originated in a ground floor shop of a Housing Board block in Ang Mo Kio injured eight.

West Coast GRC MP S. Iswaran said on the sidelines of the event yesterday that hawkers who work with fire and heat are at higher risk of encountering a dangerous situation.

"As we've seen from recent experience, this sort of thing can happen anywhere, any time. So we have to be prepared, we have to make sure all the people on the ground are well-equipped," said Mr Iswaran, who is Minister for Communications and Information.

Mr Manpal Singh, 48, who helps to run a chapati stall at the hawker centre, said the one-day course made him more confident of being able to handle a fire. "Having a personal extinguisher for my stall is also much better. I can respond faster to the situation," he said.