France needs US-style fire prevention, firemen say

30th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 30 (AFP) - France needs to adopt US-style fire prevention techniques, including fitting smoke detectors in homes, to avoid future tragedies like three recent blazes in Paris that have claimed the lives of nearly 50 African immigrants, fire officers said Tuesday.

PARIS, Aug 30 (AFP) - France needs to adopt US-style fire prevention techniques, including fitting smoke detectors in homes, to avoid future tragedies like three recent blazes in Paris that have claimed the lives of nearly 50 African immigrants, fire officers said Tuesday.

"The Anglo-Saxons have a real culture of handling fire risks and smoke detectors are everywhere in private housing," said one officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Claude Coutou, head of the capital's fire prevention brigade.

The current French practice of ensuring that only buildings such as hospitals, hotels and retirement homes had detection equipment was insufficient, he said. The law should be extended to private buildings, he said.

Seven people -- four children and three adults, all illegal immigrants from Ivory Coast -- died late Monday when the squat they were inhabiting caught fire.

The blaze started in the wooden stairwell, apparently caused by faulty electrical wiring installed by the residents themselves, and quickly spread up the floors, police said. Most of the dead perished on the fourth floor of the building, which is located in the central Marais district popular with tourists.

It happened just four days after a similar inferno in which 17 other African immigrants -- 14 of them children -- lost their lives in a building elsewhere in Paris. In April another fire in a rundown hotel killed 24 African immigrants.

Another fire officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Marie Lincheneau, said France had to develop a sense of individual responsibility when it came to preventing fires.

Lincheneau added that existing fire safety laws were often ignored by authorities, building owners and tenants.

"The state bodies need to regularly check the public areas" such as stairwells, hallways and garages, Lincheneau said, adding that: "We can't go into every home and make sure they have detectors and extinguishers."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, fire, fire prevention, smoke detectors, low-cost housing

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