in the In the past, lives and belongings were lost to fires across the country. The latest fire incident was recorded last week at the West African Examination Council building headquarters in Lagos state. Seven women trapped on the third floor of the building were eventually rescued alive.
Previous reports showed that between January and September 2020, the country witnessed over 60 cases of fire incidents in many states. Lagos recorded two pipeline blasts in Abule-Egba and Abule-Ado areas in the first quarter of 2020, killing 21 people while destroying over 100 buildings and 11 trucks.
Also in January 2021, no fewer than 170 fully stocked shops selling various items including groceries and gas cylinders were destroyed by an inferno that took place at Alade market in Somolu area of Lagos state. While 101 stores were rescued by firefighters, 70 were affected by the outbreak.
A 2021 federal fire department report identified electrical sparks as the leading cause of fires across the country. It showed that in 2021, 636 fire incidents were caused by electrical discharge, while electrical equipment was responsible for 447 cases.
It added that gas and special services, cigarette butts and bush burnings were responsible for 151 and 133 of the incidents, respectively. Also, 106 cases were due to high voltage, while 91 were caused by reckless burning of candles.
According to the report, 85 fire incidents were also caused by illegal storage of petroleum products, and a total of 136 lives were lost to fire outbreaks.
Kaduna State Fire Department director Paul Aboi also said the state recorded 716 fire incidents in 2021.
He announced that January had the highest incidence count, with 112 outbreaks, while March recorded 94 cases. He added that there were 91 cases in December and 76 in April 2021, noting that high outbreak rates were usually recorded between December and April due to the dry season.
In January 2022 alone, there were approximately 10 incidents of fire outbreaks at markets and business locations in Warri, Delta State, resulting in the destruction of valuables. The trend forced Warri South Local Government Chairman Dr. Michael Tidi to launch campaigns to stop the dangerous trend.
The fire incidents are not limited to the above states. You cross many states. Meanwhile, the Lagos state government, in its determination to reduce fire disasters in the state, has equipped the state fire department with 62 brand new firefighting units consisting of fire engines and support vehicles.
During the inauguration, state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu pledged more equipment and well-trained personnel to handle fire and rescue services across the state.
However, experts have identified power surges, electrical sparks, electrical equipment, negligence and the lack of proper fire safety equipment as the leading causes of recent fires, urging people to take certain safety precautions.
A fire safety expert, Alex Nwankwo, explained that the environmental impact of fire outbreaks could result in loss of life and financial loss if necessary precautions are not taken.
He said: “It has such an environmental impact that if a fire breaks out in one building, the others can easily be affected and there will be multiple casualties; financial and human losses. People should take the necessary precautions. There’s no magic there. It’s just for people to know how to use the fire extinguisher.”
He pointed out that people should make it a habit to equip their homes, offices and other business areas with safety equipment to combat fire outbreaks.
Nwankwo added: “Most cables sold in the market now are substandard. That’s one of the problems in Nigeria now if there’s a little challenge; one sees fire breaking out of cables. We advise people to buy original cables for wiring their house. People should also have fire extinguishers and fire blankets in their homes. Many homes and offices do not have this equipment. If you go to some places you will find outdated fire extinguishers. Some of them just leave them there without the necessary maintenance. I saw a situation where there was an explosion from a car but there was no fire extinguisher to put it out.
“The basic fire safety equipment that I will advise modern homeowners to install is smoke alarms. If a smoke detector is in place, it will detect any form of smoke before a fire starts. Fire extinguishers are divided into different categories; the dry powder, ECP and the C02. We advise that for electrical fires people should use ECP but for spray fires such as those coming from kitchen areas they should use C02. What is needed for a tanker is a fire substitute; with water mixed with chemicals. In some industrial areas, most of these complexes have sprinkler systems that put out the fire when there is no one around to attend to it.”
The safety expert explained the importance of well-equipped fire departments in strategic locations in a state and that quick access to them could prevent a fire from breaking out or mitigate its impact.
However, Nwankwo urged state governments to provide hydrant points where water can be easily withdrawn in emergencies.
He explained: “Most of the time, logistics are the cause of the delay in the arrival of firefighters at the scene of a fire. It could be that their truck is broken, water is not available, fuel or manpower is low and the communication process is faulty. People should also know the emergency code so that if there is a fire somewhere, they can reach the appropriate authority. Governments need to set these things up and they may be able to expand service locations to places with more residential areas. If there are many fire stations, the emergency time will be reduced. It is difficult for them to get to remote areas, but if there are stations nearby, it could save the situation.”
Also, an expert on safety and facility management, Anselm Ozueh, said it is necessary for states to ensure everyone is informed about fire safety measures to reduce fire incidents. He explained that regular checks of power sources could be an important prevention method, adding that one of the ways to contain fire outbreaks is to provide proper safety equipment.
He said: “Prevention is the cure for this situation. All devices should be turned off when not in use and abandoned when defective. It is also important to regularly check the system for order. As soon as heat is generated where it is not intended, urgent attention should be paid to it. If it is an electrical fault, experts should be called in to fix it. Fire extinguishers of all kinds should also be available in homes, offices and marketplaces. The use of such devices is non-negotiable.”
He also identified negligence and negligence as causes of fires, adding that states must ensure proper awareness of fire outbreaks.
Ozueh added: “The number one cause of fires in this part of the world is negligence. There’s this level of complacency about our attitude towards work. For example, if a generator house is on fire, the source that powers the entire facility must be shut down. The facility may need a 500 KVA generator to power it, but due to the economic situation in the country, they have decided to use a smaller capacity generator. This can melt cables and eventually cause a fire. Some electricians aren’t careful either. When they connect wires and need to avoid partial contact, it is not well done in both private and public and commercial establishments. The fire events in the markets often come from electrical sparks. Sometimes people don’t turn off their devices after work. People need to be aware that they turn off devices when they are not around because some people leave fans, air conditioners and others on and go out. These items can create sparks. There could also be a surge from the power supply.”
In his opinion, firefighters in all gas stations also need to improve their attitude towards fire incidents.
He advised them to take a self-reliant approach to such incidents.
He added. “There should be an attitude towards work and fire, and we should also be our brother’s keepers. There is a professional way to approach fire. It starts with urgency, with readiness. What is happening in this part of the world is that when firefighters get an emergency call, they start loading up their vehicles and looking for other necessary firefighting equipment.”