Good afternoon to you all, members of the Media and welcome to the National Fire Authority HQ here in Walu Bay, Suva.

As you are all aware, the National Fire Authority has 21 fire stations located around the country with a vehicle fleet of 89 vehicles and total staffing of 661 personnel.

The NFA is an all-encompassing fire and emergency management service. This means that the National Fire Authority is responsible not only for fire emergency response but also for attending to other emergencies such as road accident rescue, flood and swift water rescue, hazardous material rescue, urban search and rescue, natural disaster rescue and emergency ambulance service, as mandated in the National Fire Service Act, 1994.

This media conference has been organized to enable the NFA to send out advisories and warnings to all members of the general public, especially with the children at home for the school holidays, Christmas in just a few days away and the New Year 2024 fast approaching over the next 10 days.

This is also an opportunity for the Media to understand the challenges faced by the National Fire Authority in terms of fire and emergency response.

The National Fire Authority is calling on the general public – young and old, to prioritise Fire Safety wherever they are during this festive season, particularly when they are in their homes with family gatherings for Christmas feastings, New Year celebrations, children on school holidays, parents and workers taking well deserved annual leave, and even weddings and birthday celebrations.

 It is rather alarming to see that despite the fact that people are in the comfort of their homes during this time, we are still receiving property fire calls. Home fires are expected to drop when people are at home because they would be on the alert.  But, sadly, this is not the case.

 The National Fire Authority is reminding the general public to take fire safety seriously and stresses the importance of taking extra precautions to avoid unwanted fire incidents from happening to their homes and properties.

This year, NFA statistics reveal that from January to mid- December, we responded to a total of 173 structural fire incidents compared to 144 for the 12 months last year – a significant 20% increase. For the month of December alone, we have attended a total of 13 structural fires todate compared to 21 structural fires for the month of December last year.

Of the total of 173 structural fires attended from January 2023 to date, 158 were residential fires, which is a 22% increase when compared to 129 residential fires for the 12 months last year. This is a shocking increase which directly reflects the general public’s leisure attitude towards fire safety. 

For the month of December alone, we have recorded 12 residential fires to date and this compares to 20 residential fires for the month of December last year. Sadly, whilst families are preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas and the New Year celebrations, these twelve (12) families are homeless, having lost their homes to fire.  We, therefore, urge the general public to take extra precautions during this festive season.

For the last 5 years from 2017, 48% of structural fires occurred outside the boundary whilst 52% occurred inside the boundary.

Given our capability to fight fires, of the total of 415,000 water meters in our stats, only 12% of that are located outside the boundary whilst the bulk of the water meters are within, revealing the deficiency of our capability in fighting fires outside the boundary. Here is where we have to look for other sources of water such as streams, waterways, water tanks, etc.   

These structural fires resulted in an estimated total loss of $23.3 million when compared to an estimated $9.5 million loss due to fires in 2022, a massive 145% increase in loss of investments due to fire damage.

As you all know, our weather system is divided into dry and wet weather seasons. November to April is usually the wet season or cyclone season whilst May to October is the dry season. 

Our analysis revealed that during the dry season, the highest number of fires attended are attributed to Grass, Bush, Cane and Rubbish fires, compared to structural and vehicle fires. These are predominant in the Northern and Western divisions.

Our analysis further shows that this trend continues into the wet season with Grass, Bush, Cane and Rubbish fires remaining predominantly high compared to structural and vehicle fires.

The high moisture content in vegetation decreases the ignition point for fire whilst in the dry season whilst the low moisture content in vegetation increases the ignition point for fire in the wet season. We are highlighting this point because of the dangers of potential spillovers of grass fires to residential properties.

Recent incidents of uncontrolled burning occurred in Legalega, Nadi on 8th September 2023 when a grass fire spread from a vacant piece of land to the adjacent property which housed a rental firm and a taxi business. The fire destroyed 16 vehicles.

In another incident in Vatubokolaca, Savusavu on 25th October 2023, a spill over from an uncontrolled grass fire caused 90% structural damage to a 3-bedroom home.

This is the reason why the penalty for uncontrolled burning is very high under the Environment Management (Waste Disposal & Recycling) Regulations 2007 where those who are caught without a permit to burn are liable to be fined $10,000 or 5-year jail sentence. There is also a penalty imposed under Section 23 of the Forest Act and it is imperative for the general public to be aware of these.

Just recently on 14th December 2023, a grass fire at Nasoso, Nadi, damaged an EFL pine power pole causing a power supply shut down to 12 homes. Our fire crews had rushed to the scene from two other emergency responses at Tadra, Votualevu, and Namoli, Nadi Back Road, and managed to save 4 houses and a Grace Road Supermarket.  This is an example where the National Fire Authority is stretching its limited resources.

These grassfires are causing major damages not only to homes but also affecting the electricity supply infrastructure. Therefore, we are urging members of the general public, particularly in the Western Division where grassfires are high, to avoid uncontrolled burning of your rubbish, or clearing of farmlands.

We strictly advise smokers to ensure the proper disposal of their cigarette butts whether outside or in your home because careless disposal of your cigarette butts have caused unwanted fires. We also urge smokers to practice healthy living by smoking outside your house and have a proper disposal bin for your cigarette butts.  When disposing your cigarette butt ensure that you put it off rather than flicking it off because that lit cigarette butt can start a fire.

In the event of an unwanted fire, we advise you to call 910 first before you attempt to put out the fire yourself so that our team can get there early as possible.

The Christmas festivities also includes making lovo and a lot of outdoor or open fireplace cooking. Whilst these are very delicious and families look forward to these, we are also urging members of the general public to be careful when handling fire and to ensure that the fire is put out completely when you have finished your cooking.  It is better to be safe than sorry!

The increasing trend in structural fires to 173 properties does not necessarily reflect the negligent attitude of homeowners but also reflects properties that have been left vacant or abandoned and over time used as drinking spots and causing threat to nearby homes.

We urge these property owners to take responsibility and secure or completely abolish the buildings to prevent unnecessary risky incidents and unnecessary use of resources.

The three major causes of fires to date remain the same with electrical being the highest followed by arson and unattended cooking. When looking at these 3 major causes, these are activities that we have control over and can be avoided. 

For instance, to avoid electrical-caused fires to your homes and properties:

  • You must engage a licensed electrician to wire up your home.
  • When your house wiring is over twenty (20) years you need to completely change the electrical wirings for your home because the resistance capability of the electrical wires would have been degraded over the years.
  • As we are in the wet season, if the roof of your home is leaking, please fix it because water is a very good conductor of electricity. The possibility of water leaking through the roof and filling the electrical junction box can cause the bridging of the wiring resulting in fires. 
  • Most of the home fires that we had investigated have started from the ceiling meaning that homeowners should be mindful of these facts to avoid an incident.

In the case of Arson-caused fires - during this festive season, we plead with you families to avoid disputes because most of the arson cases start from a family dispute. On 26th November 2023, a house fire at Evans Street in Lautoka destroyed a 5-bedroom home and our investigations revealed that there was family dispute which later led to a fire occurrence in one of the bedrooms, which destroyed the house.

For fire incidents caused by unattended cooking – during this festive season, people stay up late partying and they would be coming home late. I ask the family members to avoid any confrontation and just take the time to assist and warm up the food for your loved ones.  Homes have been lost to fires as a result of people warming up their food late at night and falling asleep in the process, only to wake up to a burning home. 

 Homes have also been lost to fires as a result of mosquito coils not being placed in a proper or safe stand and base. We urge people not to put mosquito coils on newspapers which is a very common practice in Fiji.  On 13th November this year, a home fire incident at Jiale Street in Lautoka was caused by a mosquito coil placed on a newspaper and the impact has been very devastating for the family.

We continue to pursue our fire safety awareness programs to communities around the country with our teams conducting house to house visits, community awareness programs, and school visits.

This year, we have conducted over 6,571 fire safety awareness programs around the country, reaching out to more than 99,000 people in the process todate.  Analysis of our programs for the last 5 years shows that we have conducted over 23,000 fire safety awareness programs and reaching over 456,500 people in the process.

During this wet season, we also advise the general public to adhere to the advice and instructions provided by the NDMO to avoid crossing flooded roads or bridges or rivers, etc. However, if you are to find yourself in a risky flooding situation and you have the capacity to make a call, we urge you to call 910 for assistance where we can dispatch our flood and swift water rescue teams to assist you out of that risky situation.

The excitement of swimming out at sea or in the river or stream or even waterfall, the Authority is cautioning the general public to be careful and to be mindful of each other during this time to avoid any unnecessary mishap occurring.

The festive season is a time of family gatherings and celebrations which usually involves a lot of travelling. For our travelling general public planning to travel to join your family, we advise you to plan your travel well so that you do not have to rush. 

You must ensure that you have sufficient rest before your day of travel. Avoid drinking liquor or excessive yaqona or kava if you have to drive.  You must be considerate of the moving general public and pedestrians.

Our recent statistics on road accident rescue or RAR reveal that over a 6-year period, the NFA responded to 977 RAR operations, which averages out to 163 road accidents a year.

This year alone, for the first 11 months, NFA attended to 174 vehicle road accidents, a 6% increase when compared to 153 road accident rescue operations last year.

For December alone, we have attended to nine (9) RAR incidents so far this month and this compares to thirteen (13) RAR incidents for December last year.

If you are leaving your home, ensure to switch off all electrical appliances in your home and inform your neighbours. We have seen an increase in vacant home fires.  This could have been avoided if homeowners are more vigilant in terms of addressing fire safety concerns that could potentially start a fire in their home.

Some fire safety tips for the festive season:

If you are thinking of using fireworks as part of your celebrations, please follow the fireworks instructions and all safety precautions recommended for the use of fireworks. Most importantly, supervise your children at all times when using firecrackers.

Keep buckets of water and blankets ready in case a fire breaks out.

If your clothes happen to catch fire, do not panic, stop and drop to the ground and roll to the right and left to put out the fire.

Decorative lights and electric lights should never be tied to any metal poles as any current leak can energize the pole and electrocute anyone who touches the pole.

Fire incidents can happen at any time, but it can always be avoided if the necessary preventative measures are taken.

NFA urges the general public to call on the toll-free fire emergency number 910 as soon as possibleif they see any suspicious smoke or fire so that firefighters can respond in the quickest time.

From all the Firefighters, Management, Staff and the Board of the National Fire Authority, we take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry and fire-safe Christmas and prosperous New Year celebrations.

Vinaka vakalevu and may God bless Fiji!

Mr Puamau Sowane

Chief Executive Officer

National Fire Authority of Fiji

Established by virtue of the National Fire Service Act, 1994 the National Fire Authority assumed responsibilities to provide fire services for the entire nation of Fiji in February 1995.


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Argo Street, Walu Bay, Suva

Phone :

3312 877/3312 145/
3313 419/ 3313 091