Personal mobility devices (PMDs) have been infamous for their flammability long before the term “PMD” was even coined. You’d think that in 2023, after all the flammability concerns, manufacturers would do something about it.
However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Two fires have broken out recently due to PMDs, both resulting in one victim being taken to the hospital.
Here’s what happened.
Fire At Punggol Place
On 11 March, around 9.35 pm, the Singapore Civil Defence Force was notified about a fire on a pavement at Punggol place, where a power-assisted bicycle (PAB) had caused a fire.
It was put out with a fire extinguisher. At 10 pm, an ambulance, a Red Rhino (basically a police car, but for the fire department, like a step-down from a fire truck), and a charred e-bike were at the scene. Preliminary investigations revealed that it was likely the e-bike had started the fire.
A person was taken to Sengkang General Hospital following the incident.
This isn’t the first time it’s happened at Punggol—in 2018, an e-scooter started a fire inside a flat, but the owners extinguished it in time.
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Fire At Pipit Road
A similar incident happened just a day before the Punggol fire—on 10 March, at Pipit Road in Geylang, another PMD caught fire in the common corridor of an HDB block.
It was being charged at the time outside an HDB rental flat on the second floor of block 94.
The SCDF was alerted to this fire at 6.45 am, and it was put out with a water jet. Again, the fire was revealed to have originated from the PMD.
Flat owner Mr Yusof, a 54-year-old delivery driver, told Lianhe Zaobao that he and his son worked as delivery drivers. His son would usually arrive home at 4 am and charge his PMD before sleeping.
“When the fire started, both my sons tried to put out the fire with a small extinguisher but to no avail, so they had no choice but to call SCDF for help,” he said. He was not at home at the time of the incident.
But the story doesn’t end here- it just gets weirder.
In the evening of the next day, two volunteers had gone to the area to distribute food, when according to one, “a few really skinny cats” jumped onto them.
They returned to their car to retrieve cat food to feed the cats, and upon doing so, even more cats came out from the unit and the food was finished in minutes.
They then went back later with more cat food and contacted the relevant authorities for assistance. A young man at the scene apparently told them that the family owned 30 cats, and were considering giving them up for adoption.
In case you don’t know, it’s still illegal to own cats in HDBs—listen to this blue cat explain the reasons why:
The government, however, has finally been considering allowing cats, but naturally, any mistreatment will not be condoned.
The Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) is aware of this incident, and is currently looking into it. Animal abuse carries a hefty charge–first-time offenders in cases like this can be fined up to S$15,000 and jailed for 18 months.
According to Macpherson MP Tin Pei Ling, the family usually keep their door closed—the cats were found only because the fire forced them to open the door.
If any fire can be called a blessing in disguise, perhaps it’s this one.
How to Prevent a PMD Fire
Back to the fascinating topic of PMDs, here’s how to prevent one, in case you decide to cop the newest and hottest e-scooter model.
The SCDF advises that PMDs should not be charged unattended overnight or for an extended period of time. People should also refrain from charging them near any combustible material, or in an escape path.
Users are not recommended to buy non-original batteries for their PMDs. Both these fires were reportedly linked to battery issues.
However, according to the SCDF’s annual statistics report in 2022, fires involving active mobility devices like PMDs have dropped 33%, from 63 cases in 2021 to 42 cases in 2022.
So, either manufacturers are fixing something, or we’re just learning.
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