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Second Hong Kong Self-Storage Fire Brings Intensified Industry Scrutiny

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Government officials have intensified their scrutiny of the Hong Kong self-storage industry after a fire ignited yesterday inside a storage unit on the eighth floor of the Cheong Fat Industrial Building on Un Chau Street. Two teenage siblings were hospitalized for smoke inhalation, and a firefighter was admitted for undisclosed injuries. All three were listed in stable condition, according to a source. The fire is the second inside a Hong Kong self-storage facility in recent weeks, prompting officials and service agencies to call for increased regulation of self-storage operations and a suspension of storage development inside industrial buildings.

It took responders more than nine hours to put out the Cheong Fat fire. Self-storage was listed on the third, fourth, fifth and eighth floors of the structure, which wasn’t equipped with a sprinkler system. The available self-storage units belong to multiple businesses. The father of the hospitalized teens told a news outlet the teenagers lived inside a storage unit with their mother and stepfather, a source reported.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Although investigators believe the blaze ignited in a storage space where wooden planks divide the units, the Fire Services Department said the unit didn’t belong to one of the listed self-storage businesses. An initial investigation of the building, however, found at least two storage facilities in breach of fire-safety regulations, according to a source.

Government officials have committed to spending the next two months examining 487 self-storage locations, with an emphasis on 154 facilities inside 86 industrial buildings that don’t have automatic sprinklers, a source reported. The initial investigation is expected to take a month, with a second four weeks devoted to examining 333 storage facilities in 173 buildings, according to Fung Chung-kam, a divisional officer with the Fire Services Department’s building-improvement division.

Thus far, fire examiners have inspected about 90 facilities since two firefighters were killed last month battling a blaze inside an SC Storage facility that occupied the first seven floors of the Amoycan Industrial Centre building in the Kwun Tong district. The fire consumed the third and fourth floors, destroying more than 200 units, a source reported. Dangerous goods subject to regulations on approved storage premises and licensing from the director of fire services were found on the first, fourth, fifth and sixth floors.

Initial investigations have found several violations among self-storage locations. "We encountered irregularities including insufficient passageways, insufficient hose-reel coverage and obstruction to fire-service installations arising from the configuration of mini-storage facilities," Terrance Tsang Wing-hung, deputy chief fire officer, told a source. Government departments were prepared to take immediate action against violators, he said.

Michael Pang Yuk-lung, chief building surveyor for fire safety at the Hong Kong Buildings Department, told a source his division had inspected about 40 self-storage facilities and found similar violations, including narrow passageways that inhibit safe emergency evacuation. Storage units were also found to block fire-service installations.

Representatives from the fire, buildings, lands and labor departments had met self-storage operators and officials from Self Storage Association Asia, a trade association dedicated to assisting self-storage operators and industry suppliers working in emerging markets along the Pacific Rim, Tsang Wing-hung said.

Discussions included the need to increase fire-safety measures, such as the presence of more management and security staff, and enforcing regulations on stored items and banning dangerous goods.

Sources:

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