With over 18 fire incidents in less than two weeks of the new year, the harmattan season appears to be hallmarked by a season of infernos, as another early morning fire on Monday gutted about 50 lockup shops and five buildings, destroying property and goods worth millions of naira at the extension of the popular Balogun Market in Lagos Island.
The fire, which started at about 4.36 am, was said to have been caused by a power surge after an electrical spark occurred from a transformer, which later spread to an electricity generator.
The fire was aided by the dry harmattan weather, which accentuated the intensity of the inferno.
Although no casualty was recorded, the fire was said to have caused huge economic losses to the owners of the razed shops and the buildings.
Efforts to put out the fire by firemen was somewhat hampered by the haphazard manner the shops were built, making it difficult for the fire fighters to gain access to the affected buildings, which were stocked with goods like bags, shoes, cloths and groceries.
The inferno, which started from the market extension, almost spread to other parts before it was eventually contained by a combined team of fire service men drawn from both Federal and State Fire Service.
The Director, Lagos Fire Service, Rasaq Fadipe, said the fire actually started at about 1.30 am but they received the distress call around 4 am.
He said: "At first, two fire trucks from Onikan and Sari-Iganmu were deployed to fight the fire. On arrival, they discovered that the fire was severe.
“Following this discovery, a total of about 15 fire trucks were later sent to the place. Both Union Bank and Diamond Bank located on the same street were almost affected.
“Our men fought the fire until it was successfully put out. The extent of damage done to the market was caused by the shoddy construction work on most of the houses and the high velocity of the wind.
“Also, the closeness of each of the buildings to one another made it difficult for rescue workers to navigate from one end to another.”
The South-west Zonal spokesperson, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, who also confirmed the incident, said the fire outbreak at Balogun market increased to 18 the total number of fire incidents that were recorded between Sunday and on Monday.
He said: “In less than two days, multiple fire incidents have occurred in different parts of Lagos. Late Sunday night, the settlement beside the popular Third Mainland Bridge was gutted by fire.
“Still on Sunday, the state fire service also responded to fire outbreaks at Larenzo Club House, Ado Road at Ajah and at No 8, Ibi Street, Plywood junction, Epe involving two flats.
“Also, a yet-to-be identified person was on Saturday burnt to death at No 15 Alabi Crescent, Ojokoro area of Ijaiye.”
Also commenting on the incident, Superintendent Olarenwaju Smith of the Ebute-Ero Police Division attributed the incident to a power surge.
“Considering the weather, the fire service men did their best to put out the fire. We are equally here to protect lives and property.
“The way shops are built here made it difficult for both the police and fire service officers to gain access to the affected buildings. No death or casualty has been recorded so far,” he said.
He said all hands were on deck to contain the fire and ensure the damage was limited to its present area.
In the same vein, the state’s Chief Fire Officer, Mr. Pascal Olokungboye, attributed the containment of the fire to the speedy arrival of firemen.
He said immediately the distress call got to them, firemen were detailed to the scene and they began operations to contain the raging flames.
He disclosed that the fire engines gulped two tankers of water of 10,000 litres capacity each, prompting them to seek for more water to battle the flames.
At the scene were policemen from Ebute-Ero who were deployed to maintain law and order, and forestall vandalism by street urchins.
Some of the traders whose goods were affected were seen crying and lamenting their losses, while their colleagues sympathised with them.
Mr Boniface Okeke, one of the traders, said two of his warehouses were razed, adding that he lost goods worth over N5 million.
“I was brushing my teeth this morning in preparation to come to the market when I received a call that my shops were on fire.
“Now all my goods are destroyed. All that I have laboured for is gone,” the sobbing trader told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Another trader, Mrs. Tinu Kilani, who was in tears while speaking to NAN, said all her shops and the goods therein had been destroyed by the fire.
“I cannot even estimate the amount of goods I had in there and now everything is gone,” she said.
Mr Johnson Ebere, who also had a shop at the market, said his shop was also affected.
“I sell shoes, slippers and sandals and everything has been destroyed by the fire,” he said.
Roselyn Edeigba, one of the shop owners, said her warehouse worth more than N6 million was also destroyed.