Stakeholders demand new firefighting technology as Lagos leads equipment renewal

In in the past, lives and property have been lost in fires across the country. The latest fire was recorded at the headquarters of the West African Examinations Council building in Lagos State last week. Seven women trapped on the third floor of the building were eventually rescued alive.

Earlier, reports showed that between January and September 2020, the country witnessed more than 60 cases of fires in many states. Lagos recorded two pipeline explosions in Abule-Egba and Abule-Ado areas in the first quarter of 2020, resulting in the deaths of 21 people, while over 100 buildings and 11 trucks were destroyed.

Also in January 2021, no less than 170 well-stocked shops with various items including foodstuffs, gas cylinders, among others, were ruined by an inferno that occurred at Alade market in Somolu region. in Lagos State. While 101 stores were rescued by firefighters, 70 were affected by the outbreak.

A 2021 report from the Federal Fire Service identified electrical sparks as the leading cause of fires across the country. He revealed that in 2021, 636 fires were caused by electric shocks, while electrical equipment was responsible for 447 cases.

He added that gas and special services, cigarette butts and bushfires accounted for 151 and 133 incidents respectively. High voltage also accounted for 106 cases while 91 were caused by the careless burning of candles.

According to the report, 85 fires were also caused by illegal storage of petroleum products and a total of 136 lives were lost as a result of fires.

Additionally, Kaduna State Fire Department Director Paul Aboi said that in 2021, the state had recorded 716 cases of fires.

He revealed that January had the highest number of incidences with 112 outbreaks, while 94 cases were recorded in March. He added that there were 91 cases in December and 76 in April 2021, noting that high rates of outbreaks were usually recorded between December and April due to the dry season.

In January 2022 alone, around 10 instances of fires were recorded at markets and commercial sites in Warri, Delta State resulting in the destruction of valuables. This trend has forced Warri South Local Government Chairman Dr Micheal Tidi to launch campaigns to stop this dangerous trend.

Fires are not limited to the above states. They go through many states. Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government, in its determination to reduce the fires in the state, has equipped the State Fire Department with 62 brand new fire apparatus consisting of fire trucks and support vehicles.

State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu during the inauguration promised more equipment and well-trained personnel to tackle fire and emergency rescue services across the state.

Experts, however, have identified power surges, electrical sparks, electrical equipment, negligence and lack of adequate fire safety equipment as the main causes of fires in recent times, urging people to observe certain safety precautions.

A fire safety expert, Alex Nwankwo, said the effects of fires on the environment could lead to loss of life and financial loss if the necessary precautions were not taken.

He said: “It affects the environment in such a way that if there is a fire in one building it can easily affect others and there will be several losses; financial and human losses. People need to put the necessary precautions in place. There is no magic in that. It’s just so people know how to use the fire extinguisher.

He noted the need for people to make a habit of equipping their apartments, offices and other commercial spaces with safety equipment to fight fires.

Nwankwo added, “Most of the cables that are currently sold in the market are of inferior quality. This is one of the problems currently in Nigeria, such as when there is a small challenge; we will see fire springing from the cables. We advise people to buy original cables for their home wiring. People should also have fire extinguishers and fire blankets in their homes. Many homes and offices do not have this equipment. When you go to certain places, you will find outdated fire extinguishers. Some of them keep them there without the necessary maintenance. I saw a situation where there was a car explosion but there was no fire extinguisher to put it out.

“The basic fire safety equipment that I would advise modern home owners to install is smoke detectors. When there is a smoke detector, it detects any form of smoke before the fire breaks out. Fire extinguishers are divided into different categories; dry powder, ECP and C02. We advise that for electrical fires people should use ECP, but for spills like those coming out of kitchens they should use C02. For a tanker, what is needed is a substitute for fire; using water mixed with chemicals. In some industrial areas, there are sprinklers in most of these complexes that put out the fire if there is no one to take care of it.

The security expert explained the importance of having well-equipped fire stations at strategic locations in a state, saying that quick access to them would prevent or mitigate the effects of any fire outbreak.

Nwankwo, however, urged state governments to provide water points where water could easily be drawn during an emergency period.

He said: “Most of the time, logistics are the cause of late arrivals of firefighters to the scene of fires. Their truck may be faulty, unavailability of water, lack of fuel, labor and there could be a faulty communication process. People should also know the emergency code so that whenever there is a fire they can get to the appropriate agency. Governments need to put these things in place and they can eventually expand service points to where there are more residential areas. If there are many fire stations, it will shorten the emergency time. It is difficult for them to get to remote areas, but if there are train stations nearby, it could save the day.

In addition, a security and facility management expert, Anselm Ozueh, said there is a need for states to ensure everyone is aware of fire prevention measures to reduce fires. He said regular checks of power sources could be a vital prevention method, adding that one of the ways to curb fires was to provide adequate safety equipment.

He said, “Prevention is the cure for this situation. All devices should be turned off when not in use and should be discarded when faulty. It is also important to regularly check the installation to ensure that everything is in order. Once heat is generated where it is not intended, it needs to be dealt with urgently. If it is an electrical fault, experts should be called in to fix it. Fire extinguishers of all types should also be available in homes, offices and markets. The use of such equipment is non-negotiable.”

He also identified negligence and recklessness as causes of fires, adding that it was necessary for states to ensure proper fire awareness.

Ozueh added: “The main cause of fires in this part of the world is neglect. There is this level of carelessness towards our attitude to work. For example, when there is a fire emanating from a generator house, the source supplying the entire installation must be turned off. The installation may require a 500 KVA generator to power it, but due to the country’s economic situation, they decided to use a lower capacity generator. This can lead to melted cables and a possible fire. Some electricians don’t pay attention either. When they have to join cables and successfully avoid partial contact, it is not done well in private, public and commercial installations. Fires in markets often emanate from electrical sparks. Sometimes people don’t turn off their devices after work. Awareness is needed to get people to turn off appliances when they are not there, as some people leave fans, air conditioners and the like on and go outside. These objects can generate sparks. There could also be a power supply surge.

According to him, service station firefighters also need to improve their attitudinal approach to fires.

He advised them to develop a way of approaching ownership of such incidents.

He added. “There should be orientation on the attitude towards work and fire and we should also be our brother’s keeper. There is a professional way to approach fire. It starts with urgency, preparation. What happens in this part of the world is that it’s when firefighters get an emergency call that they start loading up their vehicles and looking for other fire equipment that is needed.”

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