When harmattan makes fire a bad master

Fire has time and again been a good servant, but when it is not well managed, it leaves in its trails misery and untold hardships. This reminds me of the popular saying ‘that fire is a good servant but a bad master’.

It is worthy to indicate that there are still traders in Ghana today who are for instance counting the cost of the devastating effects of market place fire outbreaks on their lives in recent times.

If there is ever a period in the year when anti fire disaster campaigns should be intensified it is during this harmattan weather when a slight negligence can lead to large-scale fire disaster.

Although we are still at the early stages of the harmattan this year the incidences of fire outbreaks speak volumes on the need for all well meaning Ghanaians to exercise extreme caution in the current weather condition

One that readily comes to mind is a fire outbreak that occurred at a popular business area in Tiptoe Lane in Accra that led to wanton destruction of properties.

In addition   recent news item also has it that fire gutted a private residence of a family of Four at Kuku Hill in Accra where in addition to properties two people tragically lost their lives.

The Melcom Group of companies have also already tasted this ill omen of fire outbreaks as one of their warehouses at the North Industrial Area was ravaged by fire in the early hours of last Saturday.

It is reported that as a result of this fire outbreak large quantity of goods including television sets and other electrical appliances were destroyed.

It is further despicable to note that when the nation is grappling with unreliable power supply it is alleged that some rat hunters in their seearch for rats set fire   close to the   Warehouse of Ghana Grid Company(GRIDCO).

The end of this story is that that it lead to the destruction of various equipment in the warehouse. As a result the Electricity Company of Ghana(ECG)had to cut of power to several homes in Aflao during the Christmas period.

It is important to note that very often these fire disasters start from little sources such as inappropriate disposal of smoked cigarette pieces, gas leakage, palm wine tapping, mishandling of electronic equipment and sometimes even fire crackers. However not until we become wary of such unassuming sources of fire outbreaks it would indeed be an arduous task to leave in the bud the menace of fire disasters which have become annual ritual in commercial, industrial, forest, markets, and homes.

Bush fire which is one of the commonest fire disasters in the country has also been identified as the largest single cause of the fast ecological degradation and fast decreasing productive capacity of the environment.

Aside the effects of bush fire on crop production its effects on livestock production is worrying. Cattle rearers recount for instance that an adult cow may lose about 90kg of weight in one dry season when grazing grass have been erased by bush fire.

At a period of power rationing it is worthy to mention how priceless our forest is for conservation of moisture for water in our dams and its importance for power generation. The need to protect our forest from bush fires can therefore not be overemphasised.

Research findings have it that out of the identified causes of fire outbreaks in Ghana 13 per cent are naturally caused with 87 per cent percent being as a result of human mismanagement and negligence. The power to manage fire is therefore in our hands.

The harmattan is here with us and if the forecast by our meteorologists is anything to go by then it behoves on organisa-tions such as the National Disaster Management Organisation, the Information Service Department, and the Ghana National Fire Service to intensify campaigns with pragmatic demonstrations on causes, effects, mitigation and prevention of fire disasters.

Information on disaster prone areas, how the public should respond to fire outbreaks will also be priceless in the fight against fire disasters.

To be able to deal effectively with fire outbreaks there is the need for fire extinguishers and hydrants to be installed around medium and high fire prone areas like industrial establishments, commercial institutions old buildings, ammunitions, fuel depots, factories among others.

Insurance companies will also do the nation a great deal of service by making policies on fire disasters very attractive for our market women, industrialists and others who are very often confronted with fire disasters.

There are several by-laws on fire prevention which if well enforced can go a long way to ensure minimisation of fire disasters. The Metroplitan, Municipal and District assemblies and the law enforcement agencies owe it a duty to ensure strict enforcement   of these laws as a remedy for fire disasters.

As citizens we all have roles to play in preventing fire from being a bad master for the cost fire outbreaks to national development is phenomenal.

ByDavid Owusu-Amoah

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