The HCM City fire brigade has called on people running shops at home to take proper preventive measures against fire.
The warning came after a fire broke out in the kitchen of a fast-food restaurant on Bui Vien Street in District 1, frightening not only staff but also guests.
Earlier, authorities had reported loss of life in fires at a house selling coffins in Binh Tan District (four deaths), one selling wedding dresses in District 12 (three deaths) and another selling household items in Binh Tan District (four deaths).
According to statistics released by the HCM City Fire Fighting Police, there have been nearly 1,180 fires, including 595 at shophouses, in the past three years.
The city has around 294,000 shophouses, nearly a third of which are unlicensed.
Among the unlicensed ones, nearly 39,900 face fire hazards due to inflammable materials used in their construction, unsafe electrical wiring or storage and trading of inflammable goods.
In the past year, the District 1 fire brigade carried out over 950 inspections and found that a large number of shophouses lack fire escapes or fire extinguishers or have unsafe electrical systems or a combination of these.
It said goods are stored everywhere on the ground floor in most places, while each has only one staircase that is not large enough for escaping in case of a fire.
Household electrical systems and advertisement boards would also hinder firefighting in these places, it said.
The city firefighting police have suggested a number of measures for the public to take to prevent fires.
People living in multi-storied houses should not block off balconies on the upper floors with grills and at least ensure the grill is not locked, they said.
They should have ladders and tools to break the house to escape in an emergency, they said.
They are also encouraged to have water tanks and containers such as basins, pots and buckets.
The police urged people with shophouses not to trade, store and use flammable substances such as petrol, gas and chemicals, and minimise the use of timber, sponge and plastic.
Power companies should join hands with local authorities and the fire brigade to prevent and punish violations of fire safety regulations, they added.