Magnus Eze, Enugu
The recent tanker fire incident that claimed lives and destroyed livelihoods at Ochanja market in Onitsha, Anambra State, clearly exposed lack of disaster preparedness in some states.
That incident and several others that occurred before and since then in parts of the South-East, have brought to the fore the need for functional fire service.
Although, there had been serious fire outbreaks in Enugu, in recent times, our findings showed that they were effectively contained by the Enugu State Fire Service whose rapid response rate has been described as exceptional.
One of such cases was the recent one at Ogbete market, which would have been very destructive, but for the timely intervention of the state fire service. Daily Sun learnt that the sensitisation campaign and provision of some fire detecting and fighting equipment to the traders by the state fire service, helped in nipping the incident in the bud.
This sterling performance of the Enugu state fire service has spotted it as a good example of how a government institution should run.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, on January 30, 2020, praised the fire service chief, Okwudiri Ohaa and his team, to high heavens.
He promised to avail all the necessary materials they would require to sustain their current performance in fire prevention and fighting in the state.
To start with, he presented the critical agency with five made-in-Nigeria mini fire fighting trucks to enhance its services.
Before this period, Ugwuanyi had, on assumption of office, increased the number of fire service stations, built and furnished five new modern stations across the three senatorial districts of the state and also increased the hazard allowance for the personnel.
A highly elated Ohaa, enumerated other goodies from the Ugwuanyi administration to include; provision of fire fighter’s suit and service uniforms for all the staff; Personal Protecting Equipment (PPE), that has made the fire fighters more confident and less fearful in combating inferno.
He added that the Governor has also ensured that there is constant supply and availability of chemicals used for fire fighting; recruited 52 fighters and 11 drivers, while ensuring that adequate training for capacity building is also given to the personnel.
Daily Sun gathered that the laudable investment in the sector has actually raised awareness on fire prevention and combating, to the point that there were no less than 165 fire calls for January 2020 alone. Out of the number, 145 calls were bush burning related calls. In fact, the level of fire awareness in the state at the moment is such that dust bin burning also attracts calls to the fire service.
At the handing over of the five mini fighter trucks to the service, Ugwuanyi, who was represented the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Simon Ortuanya, admitted that the fire incident which would have razed Ogbete main market, this year, was aborted because of the sensitization and training the service gave to the traders last December.
To further facilitate the operation of the Fire service, the Governor approved a separate accounting system for the service, pointing out that its operations were not supposed to be slowed down by bureaucratic bottleneck.
Still basking in the euphoria of the support from state chief executive; the service continued its fire education campaign for residents of the state.
Last Friday, the service visited some establishments and staged a road show to further create awareness of mitigation of fire incidents, particularly at harmattan season such as now.
At the event, Ohaa disclosed that the state government would soon establish three more fire service stations in the three senatorial districts, stressing that the target is to have at least one fire station in each of the 17 local government areas of the state.
He also disclosed that the government has concluded arrangement to drill boreholes in all the fire stations in the state and in addition approved for supply of rapid response mini vehicles that can pass through smaller thoroughfares.
“Prior to the beginning of the dry season’s harmattan, we have taken a sensitization tour to all major markets in Enugu state starting from Ogbete market to Obollo-Afor, to Orie-Emene markets, Timber sheds and other sensitive points, teaching and enlightening on the basic methods to prevent fire incidents.
“While we embarked on the sensitization tour, we were able to distribute huge industrial fire extinguishers to some major markets in the state courtesy of Governor Ugwuanyi. The various inputs helped in the fight and curtail of rate of fire incidents in the state.”
Ohaa further disclosed that the state government has approved for the installation of fire equipment in government establishments in the state.