HỘI AN — A fire-prevention and warning system project has been reviewed for ancient houses in the ancient town of Hội An after a two-storey brick and timber house in the Old Quarter was damaged by fire on Monday.
In just two hours, a 100-year-old house on Nguyễn Thái Học street, used as a coffee shop, was completely damaged in the blaze. Local police said a short circuit caused the night-time fire.
Director of Hội An City’s Centre for Cultural heritage management and preservation, Phạm Phú Ngọc, said the VNĐ200 billion (US$8.7 million) fire-prevention project was in the final stage for approval by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports.
Ngọc said the project would include a series of early-warning sensors and firefighters at old houses in the town later this year, but awareness of fire risks needed to be raised among owners of old homes.
He said the Old Quarter, covering 300,000 sq.m, preserved 1,200 relic sites and around 1,000 old houses, but 60 per cent of old houses were rented out, often for tourism services. Business people at the rental houses often shut down shops, and nobody stayed at night.
If a fire occurs inside the houses at night, firefighters are not alerted quickly because of a lack of fire alarms.
He added that the two-year deadlock due to COVID-19 had left the Old Quarter quiet, and almost all houses vacant.
Ngọc said that despite upgrading projects recently, timber houses, built one hundred years ago, have been degraded by time and floods.
A report from the centre unveiled that at least 12 fires had been recorded in the Old Quarter between 2012-21.
Unofficial sources say that around 300 old houses were bought by people from Hà Nội and HCM City during the booming tourism in Hội An in two recent decades. Most new owners use these old houses for souvenir shops, coffee shops or bars.
Hội An ancient town and Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary are both UNESCO-recognised world heritage sites in Quảng Nam Province, while the Hội An-Chàm Islands became a world biosphere reserve in 2009.
In 2019, Hội An hosted 5.3 million tourists, of which 4 million arrivals were international visitors. However, COVID-19 left the tourism hub a quiet destination in 2020-21.
Tourism has resumed in the town as thousands of tourists visited Hội An each day during lunar New Year.
The ancient town is focused on the National Tourism Year, with Quảng Nam hosting 62 tourism events in 2022 for 4.2 million tourists. — VNS