The incessant case of fire outbreaks in homes, public buildings, and roads across major cities in Nigeria has resulted in massive loss of lives and properties. This is a call for concern as it further contributes to the shrinking of the nation’s economy. Lagos state recorded about 39 fire incidents within the first week of 2020. A total of 191 fire incidents occurred in Oyo state just between January and February 2020. Also, in Osun state, thirty fire incidents were recorded in the first week of 2020. Some incidents happened domestically; others were industrial which includes the marketplace.
Within the last two months, about 11 fire incidences occurred with more than 20 public and private buildings witnessing varying degrees of fire outbreak. The Kara bridge tanker explosion experienced no fewer than 20 vehicles burnt with two deaths. About 30 people including school children died in the Kogi petrol tanker explosion. The Baruwa gas explosion killed at least 13 persons with several others injured, while properties worth millions of naira were destroyed. Nigeria is inundated almost on a weekly basis of five outbreaks in the country. Most recent is the Akure Market fire reportedly caused by an electrical spark. Unfortunately, the Akure Fire Service was unable to come to the rescue of the traders because of lack of water. The World Life Expectancy Report in 2016 ranked Nigeria first in the World for number of deaths by fire.
The major factors contributing to the increase in fire outbreak occurrences are amongst others: the storing of petroleum products at home; the total neglect of fire safety measures during the design and construction phases of structure; poor market infrastructure and failure of traders to take proactive measures against fire disasters. There are few public or private buildings with fire extinguishers, fire and smoke detectors, fire exits, warning signs and designated assemble fire points. New strategies and mitigation approaches are as such being developed by the Federal Government to curb fire prevention in the nation. Consequently, the FG disclosed its intention to install firefighting gear in major markets across the country. This is in response to the fire disaster that occurred in Onitsha market in 2019, which led to the death of five persons and the destruction of properties worth billions of naira.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) launched a campaign on ‘Fire Prevention, Mitigation and Integration of Insurance Policy in Marketplaces’. One of the objectives of the program was to train fire marshal residents in market areas to help handle small fires, and alerting emergency agencies in case of any fire outbreaks. The Lagos State Fire Service also launched a sensitization program to emphasize the importance of having fire extinguishers in markets. The service stated that the UK fire extinguisher regulation should be adopted in Nigeria. The UK regulations mandate establishments to have a minimum of two ‘Class A’ extinguishers – for putting out wood, paper, textile and plastic fires – on each floor of a building. Small premises with little room for escape should have only one fire extinguisher. The regulation also demands that all premises with electrical equipment must have at least two-kilogram C02 extinguishers and where equipment used is up to 415 volts, five-kilogram CO2 extinguishers are required.
Three training schools were opened in March 2019 and over 2000 newly recruited personnel were trained to strengthen the service. Approval was also given for the establishment of five fire service training schools. These training schools are to provide training for not just the Federal Fire Service personnel but the State Fire Services and other fire services within and outside the country. With the spate of fire outbreaks in recent times, it is clear that Government needs to do more in the provision of infrastructure, equipment and tools for our fire services. The hotline of the fire service should be a constant and unforgettable mantra that can be reached for a quick response to a nascent fire before it escalates into a wild one. The tales of woe concerning the absence, lateness or powerlessness of the fire service to the scene of any carnage should be a thing of history in 21st century Nigeria.
In a country of rippling fire outbreaks, there is the need for everybody to acquire safety information in the handling of fire outbreaks. It is also imperative to have functional knowledge of their usages. People using gas for domestic or industrial purposes need to be more vigilant. Ovens and stoves should be shut off to prevent outflow of inflammables. Several carnages recorded on Lagos roads which resulted in fire disasters have been caused by gas tankers. Motorists, chiefly drivers of articulated vehicles, should be more safety conscious while driving tankers with inflammable products. Furthermore, related government agencies and organizations need to embark on fire safety and emergency management. It is vital for all stakeholders, including religious bodies and corporate organizations, to adhere to the rules of safety in their daily activities.
Education advocacy on fire prevention and management should not be left in the hands of the government alone. The entire nation must be involved. Young ones must be educated on all safety measures in order to reduce to the barest minimum the incidence of fire in the nation.
Photo Credit: AllAfrica