12th September, 2015
Considering recent spate of fire outbreaks in which scores of human lives have been terminated and billions of Naira worth of goods and property destroyed in Lagos State, it has become extremely essential for all and sundry to pay immense attention to safety issues. The recent fire disaster that led to the death of a family of seven in Obele Lawanson Community, Surulere, Lagos, is, indeed, a grievous episode. According to reports, those killed instantly in the incident were 28-year-old Kelechi Onoja; his wife, 18-year-old Nkiru; their one year and eight months old first child, Favour; their three weeks-old second baby boy; two other family members; and Nkiru’s 80-year-old mother. Six-year-old Chidinma, the only initial survivor of the incident, reportedly died at the hospital due to burns injuries to her face and hands. It is such a tragic occurrence that would make hearts of steel melt.
Barely two weeks after the inauguration of the present Ambode administration in Lagos state, three other fire outbreaks took place in the metropolis in one day in which at least 21 vehicles and 44 stalls were razed following a spillage from a petrol tanker which fell off the Iyana-Ipaja bridge. On same day, two other dreadful fire incidents equally occurred overnight in Badagry and Ojo areas of the state respectively resulting in monumental losses. Though incidence of fire outbreak has become rather rampant, both within and outside the country, it is, however, especially scary considering the number of fire incidents that have occurred in quick succession across Lagos State of recent.
This development is bothersome bearing in mind its effects on our socio-economic life. The price of fire incidents is apparently huge. It results in pains and deaths to victims, wastes time, money and materials and damage to equipment and structures. It is therefore, discouraging to know that most of these disasters are not acts of God but rather the products of human errors and carelessness. For instance, the recent fire episode that killed a family of seven was reportedly caused by candle light which was not put off at night. Risky acts such as storing of petroleum products at homes and reckless use of cooking gas at homes are common causes of fire outbreaks in our society. Storing of petroleum products at homes is especially a sheer act of inconceivable thoughtlessness that must be discouraged. Equally, many people close at work or leave home without ensuring that all electrical appliances are shut down to prevent outbreak of fire in case of power surge. It is also dangerous to keep matches and other inflammable materials within the reach of children. Other causes of fire outbreaks are careless attitude towards electrical gadgets, faulty electrical wiring, damaged electrical appliances, heating gadgets, unattended stove and gases, uncontrolled children’s attitude towards inflammable materials among others.
To stem the tide of further fire disasters in the state, it has now become crucial for all offices and homes to have fire extinguishers. This is in addition to having functional knowledge of their usage. It is also imperative for everybody to acquire safety information in respect of fire outbreaks. We all need to be aware that fires could generally be put off by water or sand while a special foam chemical could be used to quench oil fire. People using gas for domestic cooking need to be more vigilant. Ovens and stoves should be shut off to prevent outflow of inflammables and food flaming. Motorists, chiefly drivers of articulated vehicles, should be more safety conscious while driving tankers with inflammable products. Ideally, drivers of articulated vehicles ought to be careful and extremely cognizant of the damage any slip on their part could cause in terms of human and material losses. But findings have shown that several carnage recorded on Lagos roads which resulted in fire disasters, causing needless losses, have been caused by their complicity.
Additionally, well meaning individuals, related government agencies and organisations need to embark on fire safety and emergency management. With the level of painful losses experienced as a result of needless fire outbreaks in the State, it has now become decisive for all stakeholders including religious bodies, corporate organisations, school owners, community leaders, public servants, political leaders, traditional rulers, NGOs and individuals across the state to toe the path of safety in their daily activities. Enlightenment advocacy on fire prevention and management must not be left in the hands of government alone. Everyone must be involved. Consequently, every adult resident must educate young ones on all safety measures in order to reduce to the barest minimum the incidence of fire in the state.
The present administration in Lagos State is poised to ensure a safer and better environment for all residents. To this end, it has embarked on pragmatic strategies aimed at repositioning the state’s Safety Commission as well as the Fire Service. The Lagos State Safety Commission is currently at the vanguard of creating consciousness on the dangers of unsafe practices that cause fire and other disasters in the state. To ensure effective coordination of its activities with those of other emergency agencies in the state, the Ambode administration recently moved the State Fire Service to the ministry of Special Duties. Similarly, the state’s Fire Service currently boasts of modern fire-fighting equipment such as 32 Dragon pumpers fire fighting trucks, extrication and rescue equipment, breathing apparatus, provision of utility vehicles, improved welfare packages for staff, among others. This is in addition to having a passionate and fearless workforce.
However, for the fire-fighters to perform optimally, it is important that they are given the right of way by motorists during emergency operations. Provocative acts such as attacking or cursing fire fighters, while on duty, must stop. Fire fighters are our brothers and sisters who have chosen to take on such a delicate job in order to safeguard everyone. We must do everything humanly possible to assist them in positively discharging their duties.
Meanwhile, residents across the state should continue to take advantage of the state emergency lines, 767 and 112, to contact relevant agencies in case of any emergency.
—Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.