Ipohworld's World

Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow

In 1893, an actual Merryweather was ordered from London and delivered to Ipoh. Horse-drawn and manned by Sikhs (under Police supervision), it was capable of pumping up to 600 gallons of water per minute. It was also said to be the fastest vehicle (at that time) in the country!

What does a Merryweather look like? Well, here’s a toy model to give you an idea:

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In case you didn’t know, yesterday – 4th May – was Hari Bomba (Fire-fighters’ Day). Kudos to all our Heroes!!

  1. Ngai C O says:

    Hi felicia,

    What? I thought at first you managed to scoop a real life model!!!

    With the way buildings were constructed at the time and even now unless they comply with international standards, it was and more so at present times, a case of saving lives rather than the building. Then the aim is to prevent the fire from spreading to neighbouring properties.

    A good example is to look back historical records, if there are any in Ipoh from its growth.

    From anecdotal information, not many buildings were saved from the onslaught of infernos due to their open plan layout.

    I am not sure if residential properties do comply with fire regulations like in some countries. The only thing I am aware of is the party wall which divides one property from another that also acts as a fire barrier in terraced structures. Most old shops in Ipoh are also separated by a wide enough road or open space for the same reason. I think it had to do with lessons learned from the great fire of London.

    Taking some typical examples of residential properties in Ipoh, old and new, which tend to be open plan in the majority of cases, there is not much of a chance of holding a fire from spreading.

    Doors and door frames do not have the half hour or one hour fire rating as mandated in some building regulations.

    It is said that in most cases of fire, it is the smoke that takes the majority of lives.

    The majority of fires have its origins in faulty electrical wiring or electrical equipment.

    In he past, smoking was a major starter but this was alleviated with the introduction of fire resistant furniture.

    Arson is another major source.

    Link below provides more information about the Merryweather.

    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwics7PJm9jTAhUCD8AKHT-OB8MQFgg9MAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FMerryweather_%2526_Sons&usg=AFQjCNG1_Qx8KyIKw5V5LKrHw2M5eZ4p7g

  2. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear … It’s good, and important, to recall what fire-fighters do. Thanks.

    About the following:

    In 1893, an actual Merryweather was ordered from London and delivered to Ipoh. Horse-drawn and manned by Sikhs (under Police supervision), it was capable of pumping up to 600 gallons of water per minute. It was also said to be the fastest vehicle (at that time) in the country!

    Fast is good but there are other factors: maybe a decade after this Merryweather was put into service in Ipoh, the authorities had to test the water-pressure around Old Town and as I recall, they found it insufficient to propel water high enough to douse flames on a first floor (as opposed to a ground floor).

  3. NCK says:

    This was a 19th-century Merryweather ‘Gem’ steam fire engine produced by Merryweather & Sons of Greenwich. According to this website: http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Merryweather_and_Sons, the father of the Merryweathers took over the company (at that time called Hadley, Simpkin and Lott) in 1836 before he was joint by his sons.

    This fire engine was designed to pump water from a lake. At Ipoh downtown, it could have jolly well pumped from Kinta river. By ‘the fastest vehicle’, I suppose it was pulled through the streets at the fastest speed either because of its size or because the horses were the fastest horses. But, I think, the fire engine’s 600gpm pumping rate was no mean feat in its times. Perhaps ‘the fastest’ referred to its pumping rate.

    As to Ngai CO’s question about fire protection regulations, there are standards that mandate compliance in every building. Our standards are mainly drawn from British standards.

    • NCK says:

      As far as I know, we still refer to the full scope of British standards on top of our own standards, unlike our neighbour which seems to be held in high regard by some of our countrymen. The neighbour’s standards are rather simplified versions of British standards.

      Every new building must have its fire protection plan submitted to Bomba (our fire brigade) for approval. Before the building is commissioned, the fire protection systems must be tested in the presence of a Bomba officer. Every existing building must get a fire certificate every year to be allowed occupancy.

    • NCK says:

      Well the neighbour occurred to me because, as far as I know, government-built flats there have no fire fighting facilities except a simple dry riser stack added only about 10 years ago in each staircase. However, a dry riser is dry as the name denotes. It is not operative without firemen coming along to pump water into it. 85% of the population there live in those flats.

      Whereas in Malaysia, even our low-cost flats have fire fighting facilities such as hosereels, wet risers, and fire alarm, in compliance with the same standards as is the case for all other buildings. Hosereels are operative at all times and operable by untrained public. Also known as the first aid of fire fighting, they are essential in fighting off fires at the incipient stage.

  4. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear NCK

    Well the neighbour occurred to me because, as far as I know, government-built flats there have no fire fighting facilities except a simple dry riser stack added only about 10 years ago in each staircase.

    Which neighbor?

    In Singapore I think wet risers are now required in buildings above 60 m in habitable height. I don’t know how retroactive this standard is but anyhow it’s comparable to the UK: the threshold there was the same 60 m until 2006 and is now 50 m. India has adopted a stricter standard: for residential buildings of height 35 m and above, a wet riser is required per 1000 square meters of floor area. In China, the standards are unobjectionable, too, but you may recall what happened to the TVCC Tower in Beijing: there was sophisticated fire-control equipment inside the building but the external walls were set on fire by New Year pyrotechnics in the neighborhood and 44 floors went up in flames within 15 minutes.

    In the US, fire-safety standards vary from state to state. In New Jersey, for example, wet risers are generally required when height exceeds 61 m whereas in Massachusetts the threshold is generally 21 m. In Malaysia, too, I think it varies from state to state. For example, in Selangor the current rule states: “Wet rising systems shall be provided in every building in which the [top-most] occupied floor is more than 30 metres above fire appliance access level.” What is the current rule in Ipoh (or Perak), do you know?

    • NCK says:

      Dear Ipoh Remembered, you just need to google to find out more about fire protection provision (or, more accurately, the lack of it) in the government-built flats in our neighbour. Anyone having visited the flats would know. As to your last question, just so you know, our fire protection regulations and standards are applied nationwide.

    • NCK says:

      P.S. If you have ever visited the Kinta Height in Ipoh, you would have seen the wet risers, hosereels, smoke detectors, and fire alarm panel in the building.

    • NCK says:

      A check on the internet reveals that the TVCC building in Beijing was incomplete at the time of the fire. Its automatic sprinkler system wasn’t functional yet. Hope you will check the facts first in the future to avoid posting misleading information. I won’t spend my time to check on the fire regulations in the countries that you have mentioned. Just to make it clear, by nationwide, I mean fire protection requirements in Malaysia are the same in all states.

    • NCK says:

      More on the TVCC Building, it was reported that the fire started on the roof before it spread to the other floors, not that ‘the external walls were set on fire’. I don’t recall seeing any building that has external walls constructed of combustible materials. As to your statement, that ’44 floors went up in flames within 15 minutes’, you might have let loose your imaginative power.

  5. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear NCK

    Thanks for your remarks.

    you just need to google to find out more about fire protection provision (or, more accurately, the lack of it) in the government-built flats in our neighbour.

    Re Singapore my comment was simply in response to what you wrote about the use (or non-use) of wet risers: these are required in buildings above 60 m in habitable height, as you can confirm for yourself by reference to Singapore’s civil defense web-site. But as I said, I don’t know if this standard is applied retroactively to older buildings. Perhaps you know?

    P.S. If you have ever visited the Kinta Height in Ipoh, you would have seen the wet risers, hosereels, smoke detectors, and fire alarm panel in the building.

    Alas I have not been inside those apartment blocks; I have only seen them from the outside.

    A check on the internet reveals that the TVCC building in Beijing was incomplete at the time of the fire. Its automatic sprinkler system wasn’t functional yet. Hope you will check the facts first in the future to avoid posting misleading information.

    Yes, the building was not yet completed but the point is that the sophisticated fire-control equipment being installed inside could not have helped anyway, because the fire spread largely on the exterior of the building.

    More on the TVCC Building, it was reported that the fire started on the roof before it spread to the other floors, not that ‘the external walls were set on fire’. I don’t recall seeing any building that has external walls constructed of combustible materials. As to your statement, that ’44 floors went up in flames within 15 minutes’, you might have let loose your imaginative power.

    You have too much faith in my “imaginative power” (and maybe not enough faith in other things). The facts as I described them are widely documented (though perhaps less so in China itself). In a well-meant effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the enormous building, the government had mandated the use of external foam cladding so as not to waste heat. It was when the external cladding ignited that the fire spread rapidly, and this spreading occurred first on the outside of the structure. As to the rate of spread, you can find that documented as well. For example, see the paper “Fire safety design for tall buildings” by Cowlard et al., published in Procedia Engineering 62 (2013), pp. 169–181. Two of the three co-authors are researchers at the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh; and on p. 175 of their article you can find their estimate (and I quote): “44 floors, around 15 minutes.” Perhaps you admire their imaginative powers as well as mine; it’s certainly possible they are mistaken, too.

    As to your last question, just so you know, our fire protection regulations and standards are applied nationwide.

    Well, I’ve looked at Malaysia’s Uniform Building By-Laws (1984) but I wasn’t sure if they have ever been amended by individual states before adoption. When I quoted the rule applicable in Selangor, that was from the Selangor Uniform Building (Amendment) (No. 2) By-Laws 2012 as published in the Government of Selangor Gazette on December 27 of 2012 — hence my question re Perak. Based on that document plus your answer, I infer that while the federal government formulates the laws, the states still have to gazette them individually so that they can be enforced locally.

    By the way, I’m still not sure that Sabah and Sarawak are subject to exactly the same procedure. Do you know whether they are?

    I won’t spend my time to check on the fire regulations in the countries that you have mentioned.

    That’s too bad. Time is limited, I know, but there’s a chance you might have found useful corrective information.

  6. NCK says:

    Dear Ipoh Remembered, I don’t know why you have made lengthy talks about wet riser requirements in various countries. The point remains that our neighbour’s overpriced flats have virtually no fire fighting facilities compared with our low-cost flats that cost you only RM30,000 each.

    You can read from our Constitution to find out in what areas (as stated in the Ninth Schedule) the states are entitled to have their own laws, and I remember building codes are not in these areas. In any case, should a state law contradict a federal law, the federal law prevails.

    As for the TVCC Building, I have to give you the credit for finding a reference and stating it. However, your reference provides almost no details of the case, increases the number of floors, and shortens the duration of fire spread.

    I found a paper, with a few authors who seem to be Chinese nationals by their names, that mentions the case as part of the study presented in the paper. It says the fire spread from above (at the roof) to below, and from outside (at the cladding) to inside. Burning insulation foam of the cladding fell and caused the fire spread. A functional automatic sprinkler system might have put off the fire when the cladding was burning, provided the fire didn’t spread to too many floors at once.

    • NCK says:

      P.S.:

      The paper I found says that 33 floors of the building were set aflame in less than 20min, which was still a devilish speed. I think it was a grave negligence in using combustible materials in the cladding. However, if the building was completed, the gaps between different floors would have been sealed and the fire would not have spread so fast. Then, sprinklers might be able to put of the fire. (There is a limit to how much water a sprinkler system can spray. Usually, only one or two sprinklers burst in every fire.)

  7. Ngai C O says:

    Hi,

    I hope this link will help because it comes from the horse’s mouth.

    The information is very clear because it is designed for the layperson.

    One can even contact the local fire station commander to seek advice of any kind.

    One other good thing is that the fire brigade will also offer a free fire safety visit, assessment and advice based on the individual situation. They used to install free smoke alarms. Of course it is funded by the tax payer.

    If one wants to know more about risers, one could try emailing the questions. Who knows, you might well get a response.

    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjvuI6V-vTTAhUMK8AKHY9sAaoQFggiMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.london-fire.gov.uk%2Fnews%2FC92C30A17C5547278C728EF4B9A8B530_25111330.asp&usg=AFQjCNFFVCdAdvNA_Pfnv1wqduEYqLGQ1g

    • NCK says:

      I came across some UK forum blogs and found that there seems to be a trend among some new building owners of trying to remove the existing hose reels from their buildings. They give the reasons of legionnaire disease, and that a person who tries to fight fire with hose reel will be so engrossed in their work, they will inhale toxic gases. All said, I think they just want more space in their buildings.

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