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Riversails condo residents alarmed at series of fridge fires; maker Electrolux denies fault but offers goodwill payments

SINGAPORE — In the wee hours of one morning last month, Riversails Condominium resident Victor Cheng was jolted awake by rapid knocks on his front door by a security guard asking him to evacuate from his apartment due to a refrigerator fire in his block.

Riversails Condominium, located along Upper Serangoon Crescent in Hougang, was launched in 2016. Since then, seven fridge fires have been reported at the estate.

Riversails Condominium, located along Upper Serangoon Crescent in Hougang, was launched in 2016. Since then, seven fridge fires have been reported at the estate.

  • Seven fires linked to refrigerators have taken place within a condominium complex since 2018
  • Residents there said they are losing sleep in fear that their unit will be next
  • No defect or fire hazard has been linked to the fridges, manufacturer Electrolux said
  • Still, it has offered residents one-time goodwill payments in exchange for the appliances

 

SINGAPORE — In the wee hours of one morning last month, Riversails Condominium resident Victor Cheng was jolted awake by rapid knocks on his front door by a security guard asking him to evacuate from his apartment due to a refrigerator fire in his block.

The incident, on March 14, was the fifth such fridge fire to take place in the Hougang condominium complex since 2018.

And this time, the affected unit was just one floor below from where Mr Cheng, a 71-year-old business owner, lived with his wife and daughter.

“It was quite scary,” he recounted, adding that the walkway was filled with smoke when he made his way to the evacuation area.

He was also concerned that the fire alarm was not triggered and the security guard had instead gone door-to-door to ask residents in the block to leave the premises.

“If you go through the whole block like that, when the fire (becomes too big), it’s too late already,” he said.

Mr Cheng is among the residents who are growing increasingly concerned over the spate of fridge fires that have taken place at the condominium located on Upper Serangoon Crescent.

Just this week, yet another fridge caught fire on Tuesday (April 13) evening, making this the fourth fire to take place in the last two months.

In total, seven incidents involving fridge fires have occurred at the condominium since 2018. There are 1,400 fridges installed in the 920 units at Riversails Condominium.

A notice posted at Riversails Condominium advising residents of a warning by Enterprise Singapore that they stop using their refrigerators. Photo: Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY

The supplier of all the fridges, Electrolux, stressed that no defect or fire hazard has been linked to the fridges, and the root cause behind the spate of fires has not yet been identified.

Still, it has offered residents a one-time “goodwill payment” of either S$600 or S$1,200 — depending on whether their unit has one or two fridges — in exchange for the appliances in their apartment.

In response to TODAY’s queries, an Electrolux spokesperson said that 74 per cent of the units at Riversails Condominium have accepted the cash payment, and removal works are expected to be completed over the next seven days.

On the latest incident, the Singapore Civil Defence Force told TODAY that it was alerted to a fire involving a fridge in the kitchen of a sixth floor unit of the condominium at 6.40pm on Tuesday.

The fire was extinguished by members of the public using a hose reel and a fire extinguisher before SCDF’s arrival, it said.

About 25 people were evacuated as a result of the fire and no injuries were reported. SCDF said that the cause of the fire is under investigation.

An SCDF spokesperson said that since 2018, it had responded to five fires involving refrigerators at the condominium.

CONCERNED ABOUT SAFETY

Riversails Condominium was launched in 2016 and was developed by real estate company Allgreen Properties.

Residents told TODAY that they felt that the various parties involved — including the condo’s management council and Electrolux — should have informed them of the severity of the problem sooner since the matter is a safety issue.

They were notified of the number of fires that have occurred only last month, after the sixth fridge caught fire on March 26. This was despite the first incident taking place as early as April 2018.

On March 29 and 30, residents received circulars from the management council, Electrolux, and trade agency Enterprise Singapore, which oversees quality standards of equipment, informing them of the recent spate of fires and advising residents to stop using the fridges.

At that time, Electrolux also offered residents its one-time goodwill payment in exchange for the fridges in their possession. An agreement form was attached for those who are interested to take on the offer.

One resident has bought a fire extinguisher as a result of the series of fridge fires. Photo: Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY

In the form, a copy of which was seen by TODAY, residents who accept the payment agree to voluntarily release and absolve Electrolux and its affiliates from any and all past, current and future liabilities, damages and claims.

The resident also agrees to not make any further claims, demands or proceedings against Electrolux.

A statement in the form read: “Since time is of the essence in this particular situation, Electrolux, without any legal obligation to do so, is willing without admission of liability to make an offer to Riversails’ owners to make a one-time goodwill payment in exchange for the fridge that is still in their possession.” 

Residents are growing increasingly frustrated that they are still in the dark on the root cause of the fires, which has yet to be determined as investigations are still ongoing.

And with the incidents happening more frequently lately, they now live in fear that their unit will be the next to catch fire.

One resident, who wanted to be known only as Dorcas, said that she has trouble sleeping now because of the problem.

The 41-year-old who works in a manufacturing firm is doubly worried because her new fridge has not arrived, so she continues to use the fridge provided by Electrolux, despite advice from the management committee and the supplier to stop doing so.

Echoing her comments, one resident who wanted to be known only as Ms Rita P said that it is difficult to decide what action to take now without knowing why the fires are occurring in the first place.

The 38-year-old banker, who was among the residents who were evacuated on Tuesday, said: “We want to know what is going on… because this fridge is an in-built cabinet. Are we supposed to remove the cabinet as well? Is it a ventilation issue, or is it something else, or an electrical wiring issue? We don’t know.

“That is why people are concerned because (we are not sure if) replacing the fridge will solve the problem.”

Ms Rita is among a group of about 100 residents exploring the possibility of taking legal action.

Other residents, such as trader Tan WL, 41, have bought their own fire extinguishers and smoke detectors to prepare themselves in case a fire breaks out in their unit.

Fire safety experts said that residents may buy fire extinguishers, fire blankets and a home alarm as precautionary measures against fires.

For instance, Ms Lili Pan, director of Fire Safety SG, which sells fire-fighting products, said that in the event of a small fire, it is possible for individuals to fight it if they have a fire blanket.

FRIDGE MODEL FOUND IN FOUR OTHER CONDOS

In response to TODAY’s queries, the Electrolux spokesperson said that the fridge model in question — ENN2754AOW — has been supplied to four other condominiums here as part of project sales, but declined to specify what the other projects are.

So far, the reported incidents of fridge fires have only been from residents living in Riversails Condominium.

The spokesperson added that the fridges were installed at all five condominiums by a separate contractor. The fridges in Riversails Condominium were installed around six years ago.

Electrolux is in touch with the other four condominiums’ management offices to update them on the situation at Riversails Condominium.

The investigations into the cause of the fires will include a thorough technical inspection of the fridges, as well as other external factors such as the installations, power supply and electric infrastructure within the condominium complex.

On the goodwill payment for Riversails residents, Electrolux said that the funds transfer will be processed after the fridge is dismantled from the unit, and it will take at most one month for the funds to go through because time is needed to verify the homeowners’ identities.

To the residents’ comments that they could have been notified of the issue earlier, the Electrolux spokesperson said that the company has fully co-operated with the SCDF and other relevant parties on the investigations in all previously reported incidents.

“Our investigations then were solely focused on the fridge and following extensive inspections, technical findings linked to the incidents that occured in 2020 and 2018 were concluded on the basis that the incidents were isolated and did not indicate product defects,” he said.

Still, with the newly reported incidents, Electrolux is extending its investigation to consider other external factors that were not considered in previous cases to identify the root cause and understand why the incidents are happening only at Riversails Condominium.

“As we haven’t concluded the current investigations yet, we cannot ascertain that there is a safety hazard with the fridge. We are fully committed, though, to identify the root cause and will continue to co-operate with Enterprise Singapore on the current investigations.”

A spokesperson from Enterprise Singapore said that it is investigating the cause of the matter and unable to comment further.

“To ensure the safety of Riversails residents, we issued an advisory on March 30 to advise Riversails residents to stop using the Electrolux refrigerator model number ENN2754AOW with immediate effect, due to the potential of a fire risk.

“Residents should contact Electrolux for its removal and any further assistance.” 

TODAY has sought comment from the condominium’s management committee and developer Allgreen Properties.

Related topics

Electrolux fridge fire Riversails Condominium

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