Last month, the camp faced a serious challenge due to a fire. On Tuesday April 7th at 11:15am, a fire broke out in Karenni Refugee Camp 1. A total of 148 homes were burned to the ground. This incident happened during the traditional festival of Kay Htoe Boe.
The fire started at 11:15 and lasted for almost 2 hours. It destroyed 148 houses. This has left over 700 Karenni refugees without homes. One of the buildings destroyed was the primary school number 1. The fire narrowly missed one of the clinics.
The fire started in a small house in section 1. It is believed a resident left a pot unattended. On a hot, windy day, the fire spread quickly throughout the camp due to the refugees only being allowed to build their houses with bamboo and dried leaves.
Due to the hot season and a lack of materials, camp residents were unable to limit or control the fire. A lack of materials also affected resident’s ability to control the fire. They needed to wait for two fire trucks to arrive before they could control the fire. In total, the fire affected 200 – 250 homes including the 148 houses that were destroyed.
This incident happened during the Kay Htoe Boe festival, an important time of celebration for Karenni people. It meant that people felt unhappy during their traditional festival and that they could not celebrate as they would have liked.
In the aftermath of the fire, people who were made homeless by the fire went to stay with their relatives or at one of the organisations. These organisations include The Karenni Women’s Organization’s office, the United Nation High Commission for Refugee’s office and the camp‘s Thai Ministry of Interior’s office.
The damage caused the Karenni Refugee Committee to need to consider carefully about shelter, food and cooking utensils for the people who were affected by the fire. Additionally building materials began arriving in the camp for reconstruction towards the end of April.
We are hopeful in the future that camp residents can rebuild their homes and their lives. However, people in the camp remain cautious and uncertain about the future. The threat of fire is always looming in their day to day lives