“Fire protection entities are obliged to keep in good condition correct devices, tools and equipment for firefighting in places that are easily accessible (platform, hallway, porch, etc.), protected from high and low temperatures, mechanical, chemical and other damage”, as stated in Article 32 of the Law on Fire Protection of Republika Srpska, however, a large number of buildings in the municipality of Istočno Novo Sarajevo do not have fire protection devices, although this is the obligation of the investor.
Three fires broke out in Istočno Novo Sarajevo in the span of two months. Fortunately, there were no victims, but greater material damage was caused to the facilities. These are buildings in which there were no fire extinguishers. Apart from equipment, the Law stipulates that the technical documentation for residential buildings with four or more above-ground floors must determine fire sectors, in the building in Hilandarska Street where the apartment on the sixth floor burned, there is no fire sector.
How is it possible that the buildings have passed technical inspection?
Technical inspection of the facility is performed after the completion of the construction of the facility or part of the facility, before its use, and at the request of the investor. The request for issuing a permit for the use of a constructed facility is submitted to the body that issued the construction permit, in this case to the municipality of Istočno Novo Sarajevo, which forms a commission for a technical inspection of the facility, which performs the same within 15 days from the day of submitting the request for issuing the permit for the use of the facility. The work of the commission is also attended by the competent inspectors who may enter in the commission record their opinion and proposals regarding the technical correctness of the facility.
The question is how could residential buildings that do not have adequate fire protection pass the technical inspection of the municipal commission?
A tenant who lives in Hilandarska Street in the municipality of Istočno Novo Sarajevo says that he has been fighting with one of the investors in the municipality of Istočno Novo Sarajevo for a year.
“Our building passed the technical acceptance, although we did not have fire extinguishers. The investor agrees with the commission when they will come out to the field, then they bring those devices and when the inspection is done, they take them to another building and leave us without anything. I once complained to the owner of the building that we did not get fire extinguishers, he said that this was not his problem, that they were there during the technical inspection and that maybe we tenants sold them”, says the user of the apartment in Hilandarska Street and adds that the tenants on their own using the money which they collect through ZEV decided to buy the missing firefighting equipment. And they are not the only ones, a large number of residents and presidents of ZEV in the same street who were contacted by SPIN Info claim that they did not have adequate firefighting equipment or bought the necessary appliances themselves.
The prices of the most common fire extinguishers range from 60-100 KM, depending on the quality, and if we calculate that each entrance to the building needs at least 4-5 such devices, we come to a figure of about 400 KM that communities of apartment owners must set aside.
However, the statements of the tenants in Stefana Nemanja Street show that this way of shopping is also uncertain, who, after their appliances disappeared, which they bought themselves because upon moving into the building they weren’t provided, keep each new appliance in their apartments.
Resident VB who has lived in Spasovdanska Street since moving in says that they have never had firefighting appliances, they are not in a visible place, and that she is especially worried about her child after the last fires in the neighbourhood, because they often stay in the apartment alone.
Can citizens count on firefighters to be equipped and on their quick intervention?
The Istočno Sarajevo Fire Brigade says that the unit is currently one of the most prepared professional fire brigades in the region and beyond.
“Territorial fire and rescue unit has a sufficient number of fire trucks of various types and purposes for all types of interventions, other protection and rescue equipment, group and personal protective equipment, which in quality and quantity provide efficient and timely intervention and response to all challenges”, it says on the official website of this service.
The situation on the ground, at least when it comes to the already mentioned case of fire, showed a different state of affairs.
“On that occasion, two firefighters on duty came with faulty masks so that they could not find the burning apartment, they sprayed the hallway with water unnecessarily, which leaked into the lower apartments. The basket they were waiting for did not even arrive within an hour, and the height was up to the height of the street lights, so it was useless. The situation was saved by the Support Unit (MOIA RS), a certain Vukadin, who crawled through the water in the hallway and pulled the child out. Luckily, these guys had the right gas masks, so they were able to break through the smoke. The point is that the city of Istočno Sarajevo obviously does not have a trained fire brigade and nothing is being done about it. The current situation is that we have firefighters who are able to put out external fires perhaps up to the third floor,” one of the witnesses to the fire told SPIN Info.
Bargaining for investors?
The mayor of the municipality of Istočno New Sarajevo, Jovan Katić, did not answer our questions, that is, explained how it is that buildings that do not have adequate fire protection pass the technical acceptance of the municipal commission.
The last session of the local parliament also showed that the regulation plans are being adjusted for investors to the detriment of the interests of the citizens. Namely, the Proposal of the Decision on the adoption of the amendment to the Regulatory Plan of “Centar III” was adopted. This is regarding a very attractive location in this part of the city, and the company “URBIS” Ltd. Banja Luka engaged in spatial and urban planning during the session confirmed that some investors had objections to the regulatory plan, that is, asked to increase the number of floors of their buildings, precisely instead of the planned five they have six floors. Their remarks were accepted, although this had to increase the number of parking spaces at the expense of the planned green areas.
“The company Urbis has a license to make regulatory and urban plans and they are obliged to comply with all legal regulations, I believe they will not do anything outside the law,” said Mayor Katić at the assembly, adding that he did not support the proposal that buildings have underground garages (-2) because it is a very expensive construction for the investor and they do not need such costs to be imposed on them.
SDS councillor in the Municipal Assembly of Istočno Novo Sarajevo, Stefan Ignjatović, believes that this move by the authorities once again destroyed the dignity of the municipal assembly.
“It is obvious that the SNSD is working in the interest of the construction lobby, and not in the interest of the citizens. The proof is the previous session at which the adoption of regulatory plans was discussed, where we could see that instead of the ground floor and five floors, as defined by the decision, two investors built an additional floor. The response of the municipal leadership was that it was accidental and that a regulatory plan with additional floors should be adopted. A logical question arises: WHO ELSE BELIEVES THAT SOMETHING IS ACCIDENTALLY DONE and for whose interest is the majority in the assembly of the municipality of Istočno Novo Sarajevo working for?! How will he explain to the citizens that in the next period there will not be enough parking spaces on that site, because the addition of new floors did not provide a sufficient number provided by law,” Ignjatović told SPIN Info.
In addition, in the case when the investor received a location for the construction of a residential and business building and chopped down almost 30 trees from the park by changing the regulatory plan regarding “Sunce” Park, regardless of the reports to various competent institutions, no one seems to have been persecuted.
Who will protect the citizens?
In the process of drafting and adopting spatial planning documents or in the process of amending or supplementing them, the opinion of the Ministry regarding the planned fire protection measures shall be obtained. It is interesting that the head of the Department for Explosive Substances of the Central Central Bureau of Istočno Sarajevo is Milan Ikanović, against whom the police submitted a report to the District Prosecutor’s Office in Istočno Sarajevo in 2013 for accepting bribes.
“Today, the Public Safety Center of Istočno Sarajevo, citing the initials of the suspects, explained that Milan Ikanović received a bribe on eight occasions, as a fire protection inspector, but also as the head of the Department,” writes Nezavisne novine.
The Law on Fire Protection prescribes certain fines in the amount of 1,000-10,000 KM, but mainly for the decision to prepare technical documentation that is contrary to regulations and standards, and if the legal entity does not keep the devices, equipment and tools for firefighting in order and in places that are easily accessible and do not provide regular testing of the correctness and functionality of the device, ie alarm and extinguishing system at least once a year and the like.
However, in the case when the citizens cannot prove that the investor has not fulfilled his obligations, they do not know who to turn to.
The fire in Hilandarska revealed all the weak links of our system. Citizens have practically no one to complain to, investors have no obligation to react, the local community responds to investors, and in case of fire, it is best to buy your own fire extinguisher, keep it in the apartment and hope for the best.