Of recent, there have been incidences of fire outbreak in the state of Osun, SOLOMON ODENIYI in this report looks at the causes and ways to prevent it.
During dry seasons, low rainfall is usually experienced and the period is accompanied by harmattan. The dry seasons which is said to be between November and March has low humidity and things get drier. All these make the season hazardous.
The fog and dew which the season brings in terms of impairment in visibility both in the sky and on the land has been attributed to many crashes and road accidents.
Also, the season, according to reports have been coinciding with a rise in cases of measles which researchers believe might be attributed to the higher concentration of people in dry areas.
Even then, another major challenge posed by dry season is the alarming rate of fire outbreaks. The harmattan haze with extremely dry dusty windblows makes it easy for fire to spread at the slightest ignition.
Osun state is one of the states that have experienced series of fire incidents of recent. In less than a month, the state has witnessed minimum of three reported cases of inferno.
First was in Osogbo, Osun State capital where fire gutted the secretariat of Olorunda local government council located around Igbonna area of the city at about 8.15pm which caused pandemonium in the area.
It was reported that offices, equipment and other facilities belonging to the local government were affected by the inferno.
Next hit was the popular Oje Market, Ede, in the Ede North Local Government Area of Osun State where several shops were destroyed by fire.
Another case was at the back of the Ifon-Osun market where three shops including a small pharmaceutical shop went up in flames recently. No life was lost to any of these outbreaks though, but properties and goods worth millions of naira were lost.
Though one common trend drawn from these fire incidents was that the cause of the fire could not be ascertained, however, unconfirmed sources attributed that of the local government incident to sparks from electrical appliances, saying the incident was precipitated by sparks from electrical appliances.
The case of Ifon was also said to have been caused by electrical faults.
Meanwhile, of the three fire incidences, there have been complaints of either late arrival of fire service men or non- appearance of the officers on the excuses of lack of water.
The incidents of fire outbreaks have been recorded to have devastating effects. Annually, many lives are lost to fire accidents. Properties worth billions of naira lost to fire disasters in Nigeria. According to a 2011 report by the National Bureau of Statistics, there were 259 calls regarding domestic private fires, out of which 245 lives were lost. This is compared to 6 industrial/factory fires reported, out of which 22 lives were lost. Also, an estimated N3.8billion worth of goods were lost in the industrial fires while loss estimates for the domestic fires was put at N14.6billion.
According to the Federal Fire Service (FFS), property worth over N16 billion was lost in 809 fire incidents in Abuja and Lagos from January 2015 to June 2016. Within the same period, N70 billion was saved, while 29 people lost their lives and 58 were rescued.
The fire incidents involved 79 public and government buildings, 239 private buildings, three educational establishments, nine shops and 61 petrol stations.
Inspite of the high rate of fire outbreaks and efforts by relevant organizations and governments to sensitize people with a view to checking outbreaks, it still occurs.
Efforts Of The State Fire Service And Equipment
Although, residents and victims of fire outbreak have expressed their disdain over the late responses and lack of adequate water supply by the state fire service to quench a raging inferno. At the fire outbreak in Ede, the fire service men were attacked.
According to Osun State Fire Service Staff Officer, Adekunle Ibrahim, men and officers deployed to put out the fire were beaten up by some hoodlums, who accused them of responding late to their distress call.
He lamented that his men had to abandon the water truck and flee the area, insisting that the effect of the fire would have been minimal if the service had been allowed to work.
He said: “Angry traders and onlookers did not allow men of the Osun State Fire Service to put out the fire, as they were attacked and their water truck damaged.”
The Chairman of the state’s Committee for Fire Safety Matters, Honourable Oguntola Toogun noted that the fire service had always come under criticism for inefficiency, slow response to emergencies, but the whole blame should not be on the fire fighters alone.
He attributed the fire fighters late arrival to lack of early information from members of the public.
Toogun said, “The firefighters anywhere have no magic. They rely on the people involved to get across to the fire service management promptly. What happens here is different, instead of people reporting to the fire station, they will go to radio or TV stations. Most time we get to hear it from there. We have been going about educating and enlightening on radio and TV. We have been to the market, schools among others on how to handle fire as well as quenching it. In the process, we are always giving out our numbers. We hope the people realise that it is when the fire service is informed on time that they can go and quench any fire outbreak on time”.
On the lack of water complaints by the public, Toogun said, “The worst allegation anyone can bring up is claiming the fire services are out of water, even our trucks that have been abandoned for 2 years have water. There could be a situation where getting to the scene of the fire, water gets exhausted, there is no option than to leave and try to refill. Unlike in advanced countries where hydrants are almost everywhere but there is no such facilities here, the best thing for us to do is to leave and look for where to get water.”
He also lamented the attack on the officials of the fire service.
According to him the attack is uncalled for, uncivilized and should be condemned in totality by everybody.
‘’We were informed late and when the officers got to the place, they were attacked including the station officer, a lady. They had to run for their lives, and that action increased the damage,” he claimed.
According to investigations, this paper discovered that one of the major problems hampering the effectiveness of the fire service in the state despite the lifts it received years back was lack of equipment, poor funding of the agency, lack of motivation and security for staffs.
Toogun confirmed this and added that the fire service staff look forward to the new governor to get new firefighting equipment.
Toogun said: “We look forward to the budget presented so as to be able to get latest equipment to fight fire in the state because most of our equipment are obsolete. For example, the trucks we have, some are older than the state because they were inherited from the old Oyo state. Osun is more than 25, definitely the trucks will be more than 30 years old.
“They are very expensive to buy and the lowest costing is about N100m. We are able to make use of the ones we are having because of the refurbishment carried out on some during the immediate past administration”.
In the case of an incident of fire, Toogun advised that, “every house should acquire a fire extinguisher, which is sold for maximum of N25,000. Can you quantify the damage the fire would do if a building get engulfed?
“Fire is the most dangerous element of destruction, when it comes, it destroys anything. People should be very careful with the way they handle fire especially during this period. With gas in the house, care must be taken with home appliances by making sure they are turned off completely when not in use.
He said to quench a fire, a lot of courage was needed, adding that “being courageous is the most important thing needed to put out fire. Afterwards, switch off the light, then apply extinguisher to the fire, then if you do not have, deep a towel into water and put it on the gas cooker the fire will go down. However this can be done if courage is summoned”.
Toogun gave phone number 08033966693 out as one of the distress numbers the public can contact anytime there is a fire outbreak even as he lamented that despite giving out some numbers previously and embarked on public sensitization, a large population in the state does not know the fire services number and will rather seek help with the police or radio stations.
The General Manager, Osun State Emergency Management Agency (OSEMA), Olanrewaju Oluyemi, said his agency has always been present at the scenes of fire outbreak, adding that on each occasion they have done all they could except giving out relief materials which of recent they have been unable to do because of paucity of fund.
The OSEMA boss who claimed that his agency is having a good relationship with the state fire service said just like his agency, the fire service men have been giving their best to bring fire incidents to a halt in the state despite having paucity of fund.
He added: “Sometimes we call on fire service to intervene and in fairness to them they have always been prompt anytime we call on them, though they have challenges in the equipment they are using. Thereafter if there are damages, we encourage the affected persons to put an application with photographs to the state and federal government for relief materials and assistance”, he added.
He spoke of the agency’s contribution towards the prevention of fire outbreak, saying “As an agency, we have been playing our roles to prevent this. We were running sensitisation programmes on radio before we stopped due to lack of funds”.
He advised members of the public to refrain from keeping inflammable products in the house, as well as avoid bush burning, adding that during dry season, fire spread at a fast pace than imagined.
Meanwhile, some of those affected by fire outbreaks have appealed to government at all levels to come to their aid in order to reduce the percentage of their lost, saying, with fire outbreaks they have lost millions of naira and properties, while some are in shock which may be difficult to recover from, if there is no help.