A partially functioning automatic fire protection system at Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) led to Saturday’s fire burning for much longer than necessary, destroying valuable documents, engineers say.
The Siam Commercial Bank headquarters is temporarily closed after a fire damaged its 10th floor on Saturday night. The bank has set up a contact centre for customers in the adjacent RCP Building, SCB Park Plaza on Ratchadaphisek Road. Thanarak Khunton
The protection system, which consists of a fire alarm, smoke detectors and automatic sprinklers, was supposed to cope with the fire within 20 minutes, but it failed to do so.
Its poor functioning allowed burning to continue for more than two hours, said Suchatvee Suwansawat, president of the Engineering Institute of Thailand (EIT) which inspected the damage yesterday.
The blaze also claimed the life of volunteer firefighter Decha Duangchana, 31.
Mr Suchatvee said officers were looking at why the automatic fire protection system failed to perform better.
Another problem they had found was security doors had failed to unlock automatically after the blaze began, which led to delays as firefighters attempted to enter the building.
The EIT was asked to inspect the 10th floor of the high-rise, which sustained most damage in the fire. The Ratchadaphisek Road building serves as the SCB’s headquarters.
Mr Suchatvee said the fire appears unlikely to have affected the 37-floor building’s structure and strength. Much of the damage occurred in an area for storing documents, the ceiling, floor and office equipment. The EIT team would wrap up its examination in two weeks.
Butsakon Saensuk, EIT’s head of safety engineering, said a problem might have developed with the smoke detectors.
Earlier that day workers sprayed mosquito repellent in the building, which might have effected the functioning of the detectors, she said.
The EIT found other factors also contributed to the blaze. Large piles of documents on the floor helped fuel the blaze and once firefighters were at the scene, they could not easily utilise their fire-extinguishing equipment effectively due to the limited space inside.
EIT engineers yesterday advised that office items on the 11th floor be removed because they were uncertain whether the ceiling would cave in.
An initial inspection found no cracks to pillars supporting the upper storeys, but further checks are needed to find how much heat from the fire entered the concrete layers.
Police are still checking whether the fire was arson and could be connected with the ongoing probe into the 1.58-billion-baht embezzlement scandal at the King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL). The university kept some of its files at the bank.
The SCB said yesterday forensic authorities has initially concluded the incident was unlikely to be arson, as the burning spread slowly, while fires which are lit deliberately tend to spread much faster. The authorities also found no trace of oil or fuel at the scene.
SCB executive committee chairman Vichit Surapongchai also said on Sunday the documents damaged in the fire had nothing to do with the ones wanted by investigators who are looking into the bank’s transactions with the KMITL.
“I must respect his [Mr Vichit’s] words,” national police chief Somyot Pumpunmuang said.
“I also believe the bank should not keep important information in a single place. It should have a back-up database.” However, police need time to look into the fire incident before reaching a conclusion, Pol Gen Somyot said.
Chamroon Laosinwattana, acting deputy rector of the KMITL, said the SCB had handed the institute “relevant” documents but not all of those requested.
The university is still trying to determine whether any of its documents were destroyed in the blaze, despite the bank’s assurances they were not affected.
Meanwhile, the SCB has paid 2.2 million baht cash to the family of the firefighter who died in the blaze.