General News of Friday, 18 April 2014
Fire disasters that keep striking the country have caused damage to life and properties worth GH¢2,427,911.00.
This colossal amount, which is the total of various values placed on properties destroyed across the country, merely covers January and February 2014.
According to statistics made available by the Ghana National Fire Service (GNSF), Accra tops the list with a total damage valued at GH¢,168,260, followed by Western Region (WR) with GH¢96,680, then Brong Ahafo Region (BAR) GH¢80,621 while that of Volta Region (VR) stands at GH¢60,270.
The Northern Region (NR) recorded GH¢14,780 while Tema (TR) had GH¢7,300. The cost of items which were salvaged was GH¢7,070.
Currently, there has been 300 domestic fires, 71 bush fires, and 107 commercial fires all totalling 779. The number of persons who got injured is 256 while 48 died within January and February.
It is expected that the figures for March and April would increase as the country keeps recording rampant fire outbreaks.
For the whole of 2013, the cost of damage from disasters across all the 10 regions of the country was GH¢25,081,919.05.
Accra recorded GH¢19,940,469, BAR GH¢2,476,204.00, Eastern Region GH¢1,013,409.05, NR GH¢44,090, TR GH¢23,610, Upper East Region (UER)GH¢850,411, and WR GH¢733,726.
Meanwhile, there was a total of 5489 fire outbreaks across the nation last year which injured 1,128 persons and caused 213 deaths.
Although the year has just hit the quarter mark, the country has been already whacked by fire disasters of various levels of intensity.
Among them was the conflagration that devoured 200 shops in the secondhand clothes market in Accra and rendered 2,000 traders jobless in March.
In addition, more than 500 traders lost their sources of livelihood when an inferno engulfed sections of the Kumasi Central Market in February, while the Timber Market in Accra was also gutted by fire early this April.
Just last Saturday, over 5,000 wooden stores and accommodation units at the Konopka Market at Agblogbloshie in Accra, got destroyed by fire. As a result, more than 700 persons including children, have been rendered homeless.
Apart from the properties, a mother and her four children were also killed by fire at Kwabriem, a suburb of Ejisu in the Ashanti Region.
Unfortunately, although there has not been substantive prosecutions to prove that such disasters are arsons (despite the assistance of a crack US fire investigative team last year to identify the cause of the fires), the major causes of the fire outbreaks have been generally and collectively identified as non-observance of basic fire safety regulations offered by the GNFS, a conclusion similar to what the US team observed.
Very often these fire disasters start from seemingly innocuous sources that we may sometimes be tempted to underrate, such as inappropriate disposal of the stubs of smoked cigarettes, gas leakage, mishandling of electronic equipment and illegal electricity connections among others.
But not until we become wary of these things, it would indeed be an arduous task to nip fire outbreaks in the bud.
For example, last year, President John Mahama disclosed that, in the case of a fire at the Makola Market, experts traced its genesis to an illegal electrical connection.
While in the past, markets were hubs of activity only in the daytime, increasingly, they have become shanty towns characterised by hundreds of unauthorised residential structures of different shapes and sizes.
It is not unusual to find residents operating propane gas stoves and electrical equipment at night, which sometimes trigger fires that the Fire Service is helpless in extinguishing because of the complicated way of siting structures that impede speedy access to the fires.
Outside of urban areas, bush fires are a common fire disasters in the country and have also been identified as the largest single cause of the ecological degradation and fast decreasing productive capacity of the environment.
Apart from the effects of bush fires on crop production, their effects on livestock production are rather worrying.
Bushfires became a significant part of public discourse in the early 1980s when they exacerbated drought conditions and worsened the famines that Ghana experienced in those times, forcing the promulgation of laws to prevent bushfires, such as the Control of Bushfires Law (PNDC Law 46).
However, not even these legislative interventions were sufficient in preventing the behaviours that result in bushfires, despite provisions that punish the breach of these laws, hence the establishment of the National Wildlife Policy in 2005 to provide a more holistic methodology for preventing bushfires.
This includes more emphasis on public education on the causes and effects of bush fires.
In the end, public education might be the key to preventing the fires that have become a frightfully constant feature in Ghana.