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Community & Volunteers

A Day In The Past

Ever heard of the kampong firefighting parties? Wonder how it was like in the past to put out fire in large villages with houses in iron roofing and made of combustible materials? Why is it still relevant today to educate yourself in emergency preparedness and basic rescue and firefighting? If you have such burning questions, read on for some answers.

The price of being unprepared

The price of being unprepared

It was on 5 Apr 1958 when tragedy struck. A devastating fire engulfed approximately five acres of densely-populated Kampong Koo Chye at Lorong 3, Geylang Road. The large village consisted of combustible houses constructed using mainly timber framing, plank walls, attap and corrugated iron roofing. It took firemen 1.5 hours to keep the raging fire under control. At the end of the day, six lives were lost, and several others, including firemen, suffered minor injuries and burns.


A few months later, the City Council approved the formation of kampong firefighting parties as part of fire prevention efforts targeted at the kampongs. These volunteer firefighting parties comprised younger able-bodied men from the kampongs who were then trained by the Fire Brigade. Each squad consisted of 20men under the direction of a squad leader and his assistant. Fire Brigade Officers would visit the kampongs in a fire engine and through the public address system that was fitted in the vehicle, gave lectures and advice to the volunteers and other kampong dwellers on dealing with fires in their incipient stages.


The City Council also supplied the firefighting parties with the necessary equipment to deal with fire outbreaks and hold the fires in check before the arrival of the Brigade.


Prior to the formation of kampong firefighting parties, it had never occurred to most of the kampong dwellers to attempt to extinguish the fire when it occurred, although in many instances the fires could have easily been curbed while in theincipient stage. Neither would they think of calling the Brigade until the fire had gotten out of control. Instead, the kampong dwellers tended to grab their most valued possessions and make a run for safety.However, since the advent of the firefighting parties, the situation had made a turnaround. Numerous small fires with the potential to develop into serious outbreaks were swiftly dealt with. Many a times when the Brigade arrived, there was no need for their services because the situation was well managed by the firefighting parties and the kampong dwellers.


The recruitment and training of volunteers, as well as the education of the public have continued right up to this day. The SCDF continuously educates the public in emergency preparedness and trains volunteers in basic rescue and firefighting so that they are able to react faster to emergencies within their immediate communities. Regardless of the era and the types of accommodation, everyone should be aptly prepared for any emergency.

*For more details on how you could better prepare yourself and family, read up on Community Programmes.

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Last updated on 22nd Nov 2017