We must try to reduce fire outbreaks

A story on the back page of our today’s issue gives some statistics on fire outbreaks across the country. It states that at least 5,033 fires were recorded in the first 10 months of this year – January to October.

This means the 5033 figures would rise because some fires have already occurred this month (November) and nobody knows what happens from now till the end of the year.

According to our story, the 5033 figure comprises 1,758 domestic fires, 99 industrial, 483 vehicular, 126 industrial, 460 electrical, 687 commercial, 1,199 bush fires and 226 unspecified ones.

This year’s fire outbreaks in 10 months alone have destroyed properties estimated at GH¢28,421,058.15.

Though having no intentions to doubt the figures put out by the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), we can confidently say some fire incidents have not been captured, especially those fires on subsistence farms and in homes in some rural communities whose members do not or have difficulties accessing the services of the GNFS.

Due to the negative effects of fire outbreaks, including death, injuries, loss of property, and loss of livelihoods, various efforts are made to stop these fires yet we have them every year, and unfortunately more in the current year than the previous one.

The GNFS and other sources have given us some causes of these fires and recommendations to curb them, yet fire outbreaks have become perennial incidents.

For instance, a study by Agyarkwa J, Danso A. K. and Adinyira E. of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KUNST) concludes that electricity, candle, cooking and smoking are four main causes of domestic fires.

It is clear from such sources that fire outbreaks cannot stop entirely, but some are avoidable and so could actually be prevented, others could be tamed whereas others beat the strength of fire fighters.

In all of these, it is clear that ability to prevent or fight fire is dependent on knowledge, skills, logistics and accessibility to fires. Therefore, if our main fire-fighter, the GNFS, complains of logistics, then the government has to come to their aid immediately because the fires are not going to stop now.

There is the need for the GNFS, the National Commission on Civic Education, workplaces to intensify education on fire prevention.

In their study, Agyarkwa et al made a case that accessibility to domestic fires is a problem because the building code is not strictly adhered to.

They, for instance, called for the use of qualified electricians, use of good quality electrical products, frequent checking of electrical wire/connection and overload of electrical circuits as well as the use of fire alarms.

The Ghanaian Times is worried over the fact that most of the fires could be prevented but such guidelines are not enforced by the relevant institutions.

One study says some of the causes of fire outbreaks is criminal and mentioned even political sabotage.

The Times calls on both GNFS and ECG personnel to do periodic checks on installations at markets, homes and even offices to ensure adherence to all guidelines on fire prevention.

Individuals too should learn to adhere to instructions regarding the use of anything that can cause fire, especially at home and on the farms.

At home, people who use gas cylinders should check that they are in good state always.

The cost of fire outbreaks it too devasting and destabilising, so the government and relevant agencies should do all they can to avoid the preventable ones, and to reduce the occurrences.

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