The alarming cases of fire incidents recorded within a very short period in the country resulting in high percentages of fatalities, injuries and loses, has made the need for awareness on the danger and hazard of fire incidents imperative. In this report, GEORGE OKOJIE narrates the incidents, as wells as planned measures to battle fire.
The belly of Abuja rumbled last week as the news of the fire incident that gutted the annex building of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headquarters hit the nation’s capital territory.
Though the principal officials of INEC laboriously tried to conceal the extent of damage in the inferno, the fact remained that fire incidents had since become a recurring decimal threatening lives and properties in the country.
To the consternation of many people fire incidents ravaged the ‘D’ wing extension of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, followed in a jiffy by the Hilltop residence of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, destroying the office section of the multi-million naira mansion.
Before Nigerians knew it, a section of the residence of the Lagos State Governor, Princess Adejoke Orelope –Adefulire located in the highbrow Osborne Ikoyi area of the state was gutted by fire.
The wind immediately blew in another direction resulting in a fire outbreak that erupted at Alowonle in Adigbe, Abeokuta Grammar School in Idi Aba and the Trade Fair Complex in Oke Mosan, destroying a lot of property.
Fire incidents statistics available to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY revealed that at least 69 people were killed in fire incidents in Abuja in 2012.
The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Bala Mohammed while lamenting the frequency at which they occur said property worth N765 million were also destroyed during the period.
To demonstrate that more losses would have been incurred if not for government interventions; he said the Abuja Fire Service received 486 fire calls as well as 103 rescue calls during the period.
Leaving no stone unturned to curtail the menace, he also admonished officers of the Abuja Fire Service to improve on their services and achievements in the New Year.
In Rivers state 223 died in fire incidents while fire also claimed 31 lives, destroyed N227 million property in Osun in 2012. In Gombe LEADERSHIP SUNDAY learnt that fire killed 60 and destroyed N790 million worth of property.
It was not better the previous year when no fewer than 990 lives were lost in 7,129 fire incidents in the country as property worth over N53 billion were destroyed during the same period.
It was also recorded that the intervention of the fire service saved 9,771 persons from death and property valued at over N2 billion, just as the various fire stations responded to 558 fire calls.
According to the data published in the latest edition of the Fire Fighters magazine, the Federal Fire Service recorded the highest fatality rate of 288 deaths, followed by Kano State with 268 persons, while Kebbi and Adamawa recorded no casualties though they experienced 144 and 69 fire incidents respectively.
Ogun State, with 10 fire stations, lost property worth over N26,095,80 while the FFS which had 19 stations spread across nine state capitals, recorded a loss of property worth N11,687,40.
As bad as the data portrayed the situation, it amazed a lot of people that the data for a number of states including Lagos, Borno, Cross River, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Ondo, Rivers and Taraba were not available to actually quantity the vulnerability of lives and property to fire incidents
To many analysts and stakeholders fire incident now a recurring problem of the country without any sign of cessation is worrisome, stressing the need for the people to be careful in handling materials that can cause fire, particularly petroleum materials.
As a way out, the Lagos State Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture, Oyinlomo Danmole said the state government is determined to reduce losses from fire incidents to the barest minimum, assuring it has concluded arrangement to get modern equipment that could fight fire of 30 metres high.
He added that an American organisation would soon be in the country with its experts to conduct training for the state firemen and construct a fire service academy in the state.
Danmole who said the state fire service had been nationally recognised as the best in the country, added that the government is continually providing necessary materials to combat fire, undertake rescue operations and save lives and property.
He said, “The efforts of our men in the fire service in reducing loss of lives and property are worth commending. We also assure Lagosians that the government is committed to reducing fire incidents.
“Some of the ways government is doing this is the procurement of additional equipment that can fight fire of 30 metres high. Discussions have also been concluded with an American organisation to conduct training for the state firemen. The state is also set to construct a Fire Service Academy.”
In the same vein, the South West Zonal Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Iyiola Akande also enjoined Nigerians to take precautionary measures against the effects of harmattan season in order to avoid fire incidents.
He pointed out that there was need to prepare against risks associated with early dry season relating to on-set of harmattan season.
Akande appealed to all disaster management and municipal authorities to enlighten the public on avoidable fire incidents during the period.
He said, “Community leaders should also be involved to educate particularly those living in peculiar environments, such as thatched dwellings in rural areas, to be cautious about the use of firewood or other smoldering objects and heating materials. Such fires must be put out immediately after use.
He explained that apart from fires spreading quickly during the harmattan, the season has health implications like cold and catarrh.
It is disheartening to know that with all the losses incurred any time there is building collapse or fire disaster in private and public property many people seemed not to have learnt their lessons.