Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - French pumped up fire services in 1901



French pumped up fire services in 1901

French pumped up fire services in 1901

The first serious discussions about the need to make the growing commercial port of Phnom Penh more accident ready were had between 1900 and 1901.

Previously, the town had had access to seven hand-operated pumps, but at the turn of the century there was a new drive to muster more powerful equipment: steam-operated fire engines that could shoot jets of water up to 50 metres.

The machines, which were already operational in Saigon, had to be shipped from France by the minister for the colonies.

Protecting lives wasn’t the main motivation: the engines were situated in the commercial port, to guard against damage to trade. “All desirable precautions must be taken to ensure that the pumps are sent to Phnom Penh in perfect condition to deliver the services expected of them,” reads the letter sent to request the pumps from France.

“Their value is important in order that the Protectorate surrounds itself with all possible guarantees.”

Outside the sphere of colonial interests, fires were devastating. In December 1901, a blaze in the Phum Thom commune in Kandal province decimated 30 houses when a “Chinese man” accidentally set fire to his kitchen. No record was made of the casualties sustained.

In 1908, Phnom Penh’s Garrison Commander Chapuis set out a new comprehensive strategy for fire prevention in the city. A guard, stationed permanently at Wat Phnom, was instructed to use his elevated vantage point to look out for smoke and flames coming from the surrounding buildings.

Once spotted, he was to raise the alarm to his supervisor, who would send a chain of messengers running to a dozen other high-powered colonial officials to inform them of the blaze. There was no trained force to do the actual firefighting.

Instead, the Khmer National Guard was requested to furnish 25 men to help fight the inferno, with a strict warning not to touch any valuables they might chance across inside.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants