Fire-prevention set for Hoi An’s old houses hinh anh 1An old house in Nguyen Thai Hoc street in Hoi An was damaged after catching fire on March 7. (Photo: courtesy of Lan Anh)

Quang Nam (VNS/VNA) - A fire-prevention and warning system project has been reviewed for ancient houses in the UNESCO-recognised ancient town of Hoi An after a two-storey brick and timber house in the Old Quarter was damaged by fire on March 7.

In just two hours, a 100-year-old house on Nguyen Thai Hoc 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 Hoi An city's Centre for Cultural heritage management and preservation Phạm Phu Ngoc said the 200 billion VND (8.7 million USD) fire-prevention project was in the final stage for approval by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports.

Ngoc 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 percent 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.

Ngoc 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 Hanoi and HCM City during the booming tourism in Hoi An in two recent decades. Most new owners use these old houses for souvenir shops, coffee shops or bars.

Hoi An ancient town and My Son Sanctuary are both UNESCO-recognised world heritage sites in Quang Nam province, while the Hoi An-Cham Islands became a world biosphere reserve in 2009.

In 2019, Hoi 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 Hoi An each day during the Lunar New Year.

The ancient town is focusing on the National Tourism Year, with Quang Nam hosting 62 tourism events in 2022 for 4.2 million tourists./.