Gunpowder used to make fireworks, an integral part of Tazaungdaing full moon holiday celebrations in Shan State, ignited and set fire to five houses in the state capital Taunggyi on Sunday morning, injuring three men who were making the gunpowder.
A fire services team member responding to the scene died, though his death was said to have been due to a health condition and not directly related to the blaze.
Tin Min, chief officer at the Shan State Fire Services Department, said the fire broke out at about 5:15am. Twelve fire trucks rushed to the scene and extinguished the fire by 6:15am.
“We were informed about the fire incident at 5:17am,” he said.
“The fire was sparked at Soe Naing Lay’s house and spread to other houses. All those houses are built of leaves, thatch and bamboo. Soe Naing Lay and another two men who were making the gunpowder were injured. They are now being treated at Sat San Tun Hospital. Soe Naing Lay sustained serious injuries.”
According to Tin Min, the 65-year-old casualty from the fire services team did not die from the fire itself nor from smoke inhalation, but rather from complications related to heart failure.
Police have filed a case under article 285 of the Penal Code, covering negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter.
The renowned Taunggyi balloon festival kicked off over the weekend, with teams of youths gathering at a staging grounds in the state capital for a competition marking Tazaungdaing. Dozens of firework-laden hot air balloons are launched over the course of the festival, which concludes on 3 November this year.
Casualties are not uncommon, at preparation sites like the one that caught fire this week and during the festival itself, when some balloons’ failure to successfully launch often sends fireworks shooting into crowds of revelers that can number in the tens of thousands.