Depressed and lonely retiree dropped lit cigarette on kerosene-covered floor in Tampines flat, causing fire

Jessie Lim
The Straits Times
Jan 17, 2023

While smoking in his 10th-floor flat in Tampines Avenue 5, a man dropped a lit cigarette onto the bedroom floor, which was covered in kerosene.

This caused a fire that engulfed the flat, and about 180 people in neighbouring units were evacuated as a precaution.

Loh Fu Wah, a 63-year-old retiree, fell unconscious in the flat during the fire, and was rescued by Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) firefighters and taken to hospital. 

As a result of the incident on Jan 28, 2022, Loh’s flat and the common corridor outside the unit were damaged. 

@izat_isaac Hope all is well #SCDF #tampinesonfire ♬ Sad Music - Max-Music

On Tuesday, Loh pleaded guilty to one charge of causing a dangerous fire that causes damage to property belonging to another person or the Government.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Derek Ee said Tampines Town Council estimated the damage and cost of repair to be $20,000.

Loh’s family paid more than $14,000 to repair his unit.

On the day of the fire, Loh had poured kerosene in his living room and bedroom and used newspapers to scrub the floors. He was alone in the unit then. 

While cleaning up, Loh consumed alcohol and felt depressed and lonely, DPP Ee said. 

Loh had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease around April 2020. He was assessed to have depression due to the condition and started taking anti-depressants. 

DPP Ee said that when Loh was last seen at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) outpatient clinic in November 2021, he was noted to have a persistent low mood.

In an IMH medical report issued by Dr Ang Ren Xuan, the doctor expressed the view that there was a contributory link between Loh’s mental illness and the alleged offence, but that Loh was not of unsound mind. 

DPP Ee said that at 10.15pm on the day of the fire, Loh sent a message to his family’s WhatsApp chat, saying: “Boys, I’ve always loved you but things had to end this way. Goodbye.”

At 10.29pm, Loh was resting in his bedroom when he lit a cigarette. While smoking it, he felt tired and dropped it onto the kerosene-covered floor.

Within minutes, the unit caught fire, said the DPP. 

Between 10.29pm and 10.47pm, SCDF and the police received more than 30 calls that a fire had broken out in the Tampines flat. 

DPP Ee said: “When SCDF arrived at the unit, the main door to the unit was locked and SCDF had to break (it) open to enter the unit.”

On Tuesday, Loh, who was unrepresented, told District Judge Eugene Teo: “I just want to plead for leniency. That’s all.”

He was accompanied by his sister, who declined to speak to The Straits Times.

The judge called for a report to assess Loh’s suitability for a mandatory treatment order.

He also told Loh to attend any and all appointments required by IMH.

Addressing Loh, the judge said: “I want you during your sessions to be forthcoming with them about what you are going through about your anxieties and what you are concerned about.

“You have never been in prison before, that is why we are trying to keep you out. That is why we are asking you to go for this assessment, so cooperate during this period.” 

He added that Loh has some “reconciling to do with your family members”. 

The case has been adjourned to Feb 14 for sentencing.


Mental well-being

  • Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) /1-767 (24 hours)
  • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
  • Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928
  • Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 
  • Community Health Assessment Team 6493-6500/1 


  • TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252
  • TOUCH Care Line (for seniors, caregivers): 6804-6555
  • Care Corner Counselling Centre: 1800-353-5800

Online resources

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