Lessons from blazes in ‘historic Jeddah’ during last seven years

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The fire, which broke out last Tuesday in the historic area of Jeddah and caused the collapse of three heritage buildings and parts of two other buildings, sparked talks again about the series of fires that occurred in the historic region over the past years, causing the region to lose a valuable architectural heritage.

Most of the fires in the historic area date back to March 2010, when seven neighboring buildings in Jeddah were severely damaged in a fire, causing a building to collapse and a partial collapse of two other burning buildings.

In February 2011, a fire nearly devoured the Nassif House Museum, where a historic three-story house near Beit Nassif Square caught fire. As the buildings burned, a nearby house also was affected, and then the fire spread to Nassif's house, before the Civil Defense was able to extinguish it.

The nature of Jeddah's historic houses, built of rockers and wooden roofs, causes the fire to spread rapidly. In addition, it is difficult for the civil defense with their firefighting equipment to access these buildings, due to the narrow streets in the historic area. Also, water cannot be pumped with the required high pressure because the buildings cannot withstand large amounts of water. The fire is usually extinguished either by foam or sporadic sprinkling.

In January 2012, a fire broke out in two historic buildings in the area, after it broke out on the roofs of one of the buildings, then moved to the second building, and almost reached a third building before the civil defense could control the fire. In March of that year, a fire broke out in a historic five-story building, resulting in the near collapse of the building.

In March 2014, a fire broke out in another historic building south of Al-Baya Square in the historic area. In May 2016, in a historic four-story building, a fire began from the roof of the building in a room and a wooden kitchen.

READ ALSO: WATCH: Huge blaze engulfs three historic buildings in Saudi city of Jeddah

In the same month, civil defense teams extinguished a fire that devoured a deserted three-story building in the historic area of Jeddah.

The last fire that hit historic Jeddah was in June this year, when a fire broke out in the front of a historic four-story building. During the suppression of the fire-fighting operation, part of the building collapsed due to the erosion of the walls caused by the fire.

Yasser Al-Amer, a researcher in the history of Jeddah, said that the fires and landslides that are taking place are destroying the region’s architectural heritage of high value, and everyone should unite to preserve it. He attributed the main cause of fires to the improper use of buildings. In some of these buildings, migrant workers convert spaces into kitchens using wooden partitions and also use substandard wiring and electrical equipment, which lead to fire hazards.

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