Help! Lagos Fire Incidences Are Increasing!
MANY Lagosians would not forget last Tuesday in a hurry. Five fire incidences were recorded and properties worth billions of naira were destroyed. Although no life was lost, the occurrences have again highlighted the important elements of preparedness and knowledge of what to do during a fire, and prompt response from fire services.
The popular Prince Ebeano Supermarket on Admiralty Way, Lekki, was one of the casualties of Terrible Tuesday. The fire began around 4pm. By nighttime, the once flourishing mart had been razed. Despite the combined efforts of the Lagos State fire service and sympathisers, the fire consumed everything in its path.
Some people in the area pointed accusing fingers at the fire service for failing to respond quickly to their distress calls. They also complained that Lekki doesn’t have a fire service station and that the trucks that eventually arrived did so without water.
Responding, spokesperson for the Lagos State Fire Service, Mr. Amodu Shakiru, dismissed the allegations as mere fabrications. He said the service can only respond to a fire when it is called and that no such notice was received until after 5pm. According to him, the service responded immediately with a compressed Air Foam System from its station at Ogonbo in Lekki Phase II. He added that contrary to insinuations, the service has a new and modern station in Lekki, and that following the arrival of the first fire truck, call was made to headquarters as well as the Onikan station, and another 10,000 liters of water was deployed to the scene.
He blamed late arrival of the fire service on heavy traffic at the Lekki axis and refusal by road users to give way to emergency vehicles. He regretted that the supermarket had no fire extinguishers, sensors, or water reservoir, which might have aided the firefighting efforts.
“We can’t go to any scene of a fire without water. If we do, area boys and hoodlums would beat up our men. So, people that are saying we didn’t respond with water are not saying the truth,” said Shakiru.
When The Guardian visited the supermarket, the following day, the gates were locked and only the workers were allowed access. Fierce-looking security men manned the gates, turning onlookers and journalists away. Workers were seen removing items from the building. Upon enquiry, they disclosed they were moving them to another branch at Chevron, refusing to say more.
While Ebeano burnt, traders at Oko-Oba in the Ebute Metta area faced similar predicament. The inferno, which started at about 3pm, razed goods worth millions of naira. The traders were unsure what caused the blaze. What was clear, however, was that the wood and related products sold at the place fueled the fire, which raged on for hours.
One trader, who refused to give her name, accused the fire service of not responding to their distress calls. Many of the traders were seen lamenting their losses and staring sadly into space as the fire licked up their businesses.
Again, Shakiru refuted the traders’ allegation, saying four tankers from the Yaba, Sari-Iganmu and Alausa stations responded to the call. He added that a director of the fire service personally led the operation and even asked the assistance of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc.
In yet another tale of woe, about 25 families were rendered homeless when a fire razed buildings at the Ajegunle area. The blaze started at No1 Freedom Street and quickly spread to No 171, Orodo Street.
According to eyewitnesses, the fire started when a welder attempted to fix a cage intended for the storage of petrol cans. Reports say the owner of the cage, a woman, whose illegal sale of the highly inflammable liquid had previously drawn condemnation from residents, fled the area, after a resultant spark led to a huge blaze.
According to Shakiru, a passerby had called the fire service, which could do nothing to salvage the situation by the time it arrived. No life was lost. The affected residents pleaded with the government to come to their aid.
Also on the same day, another fire was recorded at Church Street, Ojuolobun, Lagos Island. Six shops went up in flames following an electrical fault. The fire service was, however, able to save three of the shops from being razed completely.
Shakiru urged Lagosians to be cautious about fire. He regretted that many people who make distress calls mislead responders by giving wrong descriptions and urged people to learn the state’s emergency numbers and use them when necessary. He added that calls must provide the number of the street, nearest bus stop and landmarks, to facilitate quick access.
“Government cannot do everything. We have to be conscious of our environment and play our parts in preventing fire outbreaks as much as possible. Nobody prays it should happen to him or her. But let us be prepared as much as we can. Instead of shouting and trying to loot, call the fire service immediately,” he said.
A week after Fiery Tuesday, Sara Foam Nigeria Limited at Kirikiri Industrial Estate, Apapa, was gutted by fire. It was the second of such incidents to hit the factory in less than three months. The fire, which started at around 5pm, destroyed four buildings within the factory premises.
Shakiru confirmed that fire services from Orile, Sari-Iganmu and Ojo as well as the Federal Fire Service and Julius Berger, battled to put out the blaze, which raged late into the night. Again, no life was lost.
With Yuletide around the corner, Shakiru said the fire department would commence strict enforcement of safety regulations.