According to the statistics of the emergencies Ministry of Ukraine, more than 50% of fire cases in the capital happen in residential area. The prevailing reason is very banal - careless handling of fire. The number of fires soars in autumn and winter period, when people start fighting cold with heating devices, often not adapted for home use.

In this regard, officials of the Emergencies Ministry department in Kyiv jointly with officials of the state technogenic safety department and communal enterprise "Management on maintenance of housing stock in Kyiv city" held a number of controlling raids at the end of November. ForUm took part in the patrol inspection in Obolon district.

Deputy Head of Emergencies Ministry press office Ihor Onishchenko told journalists that in autumn-winter period up to five fires happen in residential areas every day. In the so-called unfortunate apartments (with alcoholics, drug addicts or mental patients as residents) fires happen at least twice a year. The tasks of district housing departments include not only cleaning building surrounding grounds, but also holding public awareness campaign among residents, including 'problem residents', regarding the rules of fire safety.        

Together with the Emergencies Ministry officials, we went to learn how the Obolon district housing department # 512 copes with its duties.

Obviously, we were not expected.

Ihor Onishchenko asked Lidia Shulyal, an executive of the department, to show the fire safety registry, which must present signatures of all residents of the houses this department maintains. 

It turned out that the registry did not present all signatures and that the poster with emergency call numbers still indicated "In case of fire call 01" (not 101, as established by the new law). For these violations the housing department was given an administrative reprimand.

Lidia Shulyak, however, assured journalists that the registry did not present the signatures of only those who do not live in their apartments or chose not to open the door for the housing department officials. As for the emergency call numbers, she added that all announcements had been updated, except for this old sample on the working place.

"We hold public awareness campaign regularly. Once a month, jointly with the district fire inspector and police officer, we visit all the apartments and control emergency fire exits to be clean and unblocked. Almost all residents are adequate people and communicate with us. However, there are those who cause problems, mental patients for example, who live alone. They often leave gas on and burn garbage in the apartment. We have three such 'dangerous' residents within our competence, but there are also those who live with families and they are numerous," Lidia Shulyak told.

As we learned later, during the inspection Ihor Onishchenko found one more security lapse - insufficient number of fire extinguishers.

Then we went to visit one of the 'unfortunate' apartments with alcoholics as residents. This apartment has had already four fires this year. The housing department officials come here regularly to talk to the residents, but fires keep happening.

The apartment is very dirty and cluttered. The wires have been cut in order not to pay for electricity.  The cupboard is full of 'crime witnesses'.

Resident Ludmyla assures that there have never been fires in the apartment and that she drinks not more than other people do.  As for dark spots on the wall, they are nothing but dirt and not fire imprints.

Neighbors complain that Ludmyla and her brother have almost burned them for several times. They also say that the biggest problem is the stinky balcony of 'unfortunate' residents, where there are small rodents running back and forth. 

"I've caught already 40 mice on my balcony! We have applied to all possible institutions to hire a truck and clean out that balcony, but nobody cares," Anna Maksimovna complained.

The entrance hall of the house is in very poor conditions. However, there are emergency call numbers written right on the wall and residents admit that the housing department officials come here from time to time, mainly to scold unreliable tenants.

Summing up the controlling visit, Ihor Anishchenko said that all violations would be documented and the housing department would receive a bill to pay the fine. 

"The duties of the district housing department include holding briefings with residents, to distribute issue-related leaflets and to collect signatures of those who read the information. As we have seen, there are many violations. In such cases, the state technogenic safety department levies a penalty, and it happens quite often."

Another prevailing problem, according to Onishchenko, is older people with poor sight and hearing, who may not even notice a fire in their apartments. In this respect, this year the state technogenic safety department holds a campaign "Help lonely neighbor" and calls upon residents to talk to their older neighbors more often to learn whether everything is ok in their apartments, including the state of power points for example.

Leaving the yard ForUm photographer noticed 'unfortunate' residents, who were bringing out garbage.  Apparently, the attention of the press made them put some order in their apartments.

Once again, we want to remind Kyiv residents: be careful and attentive, and not only to yourself, but to your neighbors as well. Remember that even minor neglect of fire safety rules can cause huge losses and tragedies.

Anastasia Pika, photos by Maxim Trebukhov


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