• Kyodo

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The Askul Corp. warehouse blaze that took nearly two weeks to put out in February was prolonged because over half of its fire shutters failed to close, a government report said Wednesday.

Of the about 130 fire shutters on the second and third floors, which were heavily damaged, close to 60 failed to operate because the fire caused a short circuit in the electrical wiring, the report said.

In addition, obstructions such as belt conveyers and other equipment prevented about 20 shutters from closing all the way, according to the report, which was released at a meeting of the Fire and Disaster Management Agency and the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

The fire burned for at least 7 minutes before the major office goods supplier called the fire department, the report said.

The person who discovered the fire tried to smother it with clothing but the smoke triggered the fire alarm. Several others then tried to extinguish it by tapping a fire hydrant.

In a routine checkup in November 2016, Askul found that four of the warehouse’s 3,143 fire alarms failed and 23 of its shutters were obstructed. But the company failed to address the problem before the accident.

The Feb. 16 fire at the logistics warehouse in Miyoshi, Saitama Prefecture, consumed nearly two-thirds of its 72,000 sq. meters of floor space before firefighters finally put it out 12 days later.

The incident spurred the fire management agency and the infrastructure ministry to conduct a nationwide inspection of fire shutters and alarms at large warehouses.

According to the results, 63 of the nation’s 219 major warehouses with at least 50,000 sq. meters of floor space were in violation of the fire protection law. The infractions included failure to install fire extinguishers in the proper locations, malfunctioning fire alarms and guidance lights, and objects blocking in-house fire hydrants.

The probe was conducted from Feb. 28 to March 24.

The government issued warnings and administrative guidance to the operators of the facilities found in violation, it said.

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