Fire incidents at readymade garment factories reached a five-year high in 2020, fire service data shows.
The fires were on the decline since 2017, but suddenly they saw a spike in 2020 mostly in fire safety non-compliant apparel units.
The overall industrial fires, however, have reduced over the past five years.
In 2020, the country witnessed 383 industrial fires while as many as 273 of them were in RMG units, shows the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence data.
In the wake of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Dhaka's outskirts of Savar in 2013, Western apparel buyers intervened with a set of factory safety terms and mounted pressure on apparel makers to comply with them.
Firefighters said the intervention and numerous government measures followed by the Rana Plaza tragedy have significantly improved the overall industrial safety, and reduced industrial disasters.
However, Deputy Director of the Fire Service and Civil Defence Debashis Bardhan said many industries and garment factories have yet to ensure their factories' compliance.
"Most of the recent industrial fire incidents took place at those non-compliant factories. We stopped issuing licences to production units who still remain errant to compliance issues such as having emergency exits and sufficient fire extinguishing arrangements."
Debashis Bardhan told The Business Standard they inspect the industries regularly, and arrange fire emergency drills.
Tk250 crore properties burned down in five years
A deadly fire broke out at Tampaco Foils Ltd in Dhaka's Tongi on 10 September, 2016. Forty-one workers who had been at the production lines were charred before the rescue team arrived. The blaze also ravaged assets worth several crore taka.
Not just the Tampaco blaze, but thousands of industrial fires have taken place in factories in the last couple of years. Besides the casualties, financial losses of the infernos amounted to hundreds of crores of taka.
According to the fire service, 5,834 industrial fire incidents took place in the last five years, which caused a financial loss of Tk250 crore. Many fire-devastated industries were unable to reopen.
According to the fire service, 39% of the fires were caused by faulty power supply.
Dhaka division has the highest number of industrial fires while Chittagong stands in second position. The lowest number of industrial fires occurred in Sylhet.
Major fire incidents in last 10 years
In 2010, a deadly fire broke out in Old Dhaka's Nimtali area claiming 124 lives.
In the following year, 111 people died in the Tazreen Fashions factory fire in Ashulia, Savar. In 2016, 41 people died in the Tampaco factory fire.
Fire also killed 21 garment workers in Garib & Garib Garments, 29 in Ha-Meem Garments and seven women workers in Smart Export Garments Limited in Dhaka's Mohammadpur.
Further, 25 people died in the Banani FR Tower fire and 71 in Old Dhaka's Churihatta inferno.