Three Level Shophouse Fire At St. 63 in Phnom Penh
On April 24th at approximately 1pm a fire occurred in a three story shophouse on St 63. Five fire engines and dozens of police arrived at the scene to assist in fighting it. They were joined by dozens more locals and tenants who all worked together to extinguish the flames.
Smoke bellowed out of the second and third levels of the building. One firefighter demonstrated exceptional valor and self sacrifice, standing in the smoke for at least thirty minutes on the second floor balcony holding a fire hose aimed inside – equipped no gas mask or oxygen.
In fact, the writer only saw one oxygen tank at the scene being used by a firefighter. The remaining emergency responders were wearing no masks at all or simple surgical masks from pharmacies.
A huge crowd gathered and Khmer news reporters were on the scene interviewing crew and witnesses. There was no zone cordoned off and this writer/photographer was able to walk right up to the action. Citizens threw water bottles up to firefighters who joined their comrade on the balcony as the fire raged on.
One young woman was apparently dragged from the building suffering from smoke inhalation. There were no ambulances at the scene whatsoever, and she was not administered oxygen. She was coughing and faint but it was not life threatening.
The writer spoke to one western expat who said he resided in the building. He had his cat with him in a kennel, and he said he escaped with only his most valuable possessions – while the rest was engulfed in flames. He also said that he did not believe anyone to have been seriously hurt.
Story and photos by Gabriel Land.