The Bedok HDB Fire That Killed 3 People Was Started by a Lit Cigarette That The Smoker Forgot About


Tragic Bedok Blaze: Forgotten Cigarette Sparks Fire, Claims Three Lives

A single oversight can lead to unimaginable tragedy, as evidenced by last year’s fire at Bedok HDB, which claimed the lives of three individuals, including a three-year-old toddler. After extensive investigations, the cause of this devastating fire has now been identified.

The Culprit: An Unattended Lit Cigarette

In the early morning hours at Block 409 Bedok North Avenue 2, a seemingly minor act of carelessness set in motion a chain of tragic events.

The flat housed five residents, including a couple, Mr Ithnin and 56-year-old Ms Aileen Chan, as well as a family of three from Malaysia: 35-year-old Mr Tan Soon Keong, his wife, and their young daughter, three-year-old Ms Tan Hui En.

Both Mr Ithnin and Ms Chan were smokers.

5:20am: Around 5:20 am, as Mr Ithnin was preparing to leave for work, Ms Chan was making breakfast for him – a gesture of love that would unknowingly be her last for him.

Meanwhile, Mr Ithnin, while getting ready in the living room, carelessly placed his lit cigarette on a stack of cardboard boxes, likely belonging to Ms Chan, who had a penchant for preserving old items.

After consuming the breakfast, Mr Ithnin departed for work, forgetting about the lit cigarette left in a corner of the room.

A Realisation Too Late

5:40-5:50am: On his way to work, Mr Ithnin suddenly recalled the cigarette and urgently sent two voice messages to Ms Chan, asking her to extinguish it.

By then, however, the cigarette had been burning for about 10 to 15 minutes.

5:47am: Ms Chan responded, indicating she had dealt with the cigarette. But given the time it had been burning, it had likely reduced to the butt, with ash and possibly embers falling onto the combustible cardboard, initiating smouldering.

The lit end of the cigarette was indeed in contact with the cardboard, causing unnoticed smouldering, which was perhaps even less visible to Ms Chan, a smoker herself.

Image: SCDF

The Smoulder Escalates

6:20am: In under 45 minutes, the smouldering evolved into a full-blown fire, rapidly expanding into a ferocious blaze.

Thick smoke enveloped the flat, alerting the occupants to the fire only then.

The harsh reality is that a manageable fire can become life-threatening in as little as 30 seconds, as stated by Smoke Guard.

6:30-6:35am: By this time, neighbours, noticing the fire, immediately contacted the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and attempted to help.

The Malaysian family attempted to escape through the front door but were thwarted by the immense fire.


Mr Tan, in a desperate bid for help, signaled through a bedroom window, attracting the attention of his neighbour, Mr Willie Toh.

Mr Tan’s efforts to have Mr Toh open the door were futile due to the intensity of the fire, a fact later confirmed by State Coroner Nakhoda, as reported in The Straits Times.

The lethal inhalation of smoke, far more severe than second-hand smoke, overwhelmed Mr Tan and his family, leading to their tragic demise in the blaze.

SCDF’s Prompt Response

6:41am: The SCDF reached the scene within approximately six minutes and immediately commenced firefighting operations.

Image: SCDF

6:55am: It took them around 15 minutes to completely extinguish the fire.

Image: SCDF

By then, the unit and its surroundings were covered in ashes, with only charred remains visible.

Image: SCDF

Mr Tan and his daughter were promptly taken to the hospital but, regrettably, could not be saved.

Mr Tan’s 34-year-old wife, a survivor of the fire, continues to be hospitalised.

In June 2023, during an inquiry into the incident, Police Investigation Officer Hairul Azly Hanaffi reported to the court that she is in a vegetative state in a Kuala Lumpur hospital, with little chance of recovery.

However, Ms Chan had unfortunately suffered severe burns and was pronounced dead at the scene.

After One Year, Coroner’s Conclusion 

The coroner ruled out foul play, with Ms Chan’s family concurring that the fire was an accident.


On the other hand, SCDF’s response was commended for its rapidity in arriving and extinguishing the fire.

Even after a year, survivors and loved ones were not spared the daunting aftermath of the tragedy.

Mr Ithnin was deeply affected by the tragedy, appearing inconsolable during Ms Chan’s wake.

State Coroner Nakhoda extended heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased Ms Chan and Mr Tan.

A Call for Fire Safety Vigilance

This tragic incident serves as a stark reminder of the critical importance of fire safety.


Even in settings where fire extinguishers are not mandatory, such as HDB flats, the responsibility and caution in handling fire sources and prevention measures cannot be overstated.