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Opinions of Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Columnist: Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai

Let’s use preventive methods to deal with frequent fire outbreaks

One problem that is engulfing Ghana now is the rampant fire outbreaks in the past few years. Investigations conducted so far by all institutions concerned including the team from the United States of America have shown that the calamities are caused largely by accidental and careless handling of gas cookers, electricity and naked fires in our markets, homes, offices and industrial settings.

As we are on a verge of recording higher economic growth, there is the need for us to take steps to curb these raging fire outbreaks through preventive measures to avoid further loss of lives and properties.

Apart from the frequent fires at Kantamanto, Agbogbloshie and Makola markets that caused considerable damage to market wares, many communities, and industries across Ghana, many more continue to suffer a share of havocs from these fires in different parts of the nation.

Gas explosion

Residents of Kwahu Fodua Zongo Community in the Eastern Region and its environs recently witnessed a fire disaster which was caused by a gas explosion that razed 26 houses, foodstuffs, animals, sugar cane farms, cooking utensils among other valuables.

During this unfortunate incident, about 27 people sustained serious burns from the process; 8 of the men and women who got burnt have been confirmed dead while 4 children including a six-month old baby met their sad demise.

This incident occurred as a result of a gas tanker crashing into a building by the roadside. Apart from the 27, others who sustained various degrees of injury were referred to Holy Family Hospital at Nkawkaw and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi on Wednesday for treatment.

The tanker with registration number GE 6376 -13 and inscription ‘Kan Royal’, which was heading towards Kumasi, exploded, 20% volumes of the gas which leaked and spread in the direction of the wind about 300 meters causing an explosion in one of the houses which spread to 26 other houses.

A church called New Faith International along the highway where the gas tanker overturned caught fire burning all their chairs leaving behind only a Bible and the pastor’s picture.

The 26 houses involved had their windows, doors, roofing sheets, clothes while 350 bags of cola nuts burnt. Other affected possessions include sheep, goats and fowls as well as crops such as cocoa, plantain and a large stretch of approximately eight hectares of plantation.

A little Yahuza Zakari, a 6 years old boy in KG 2 at Islamic Primary School in the area, lost his two little siblings, one elder boy and little girl, while his parents who got burnt have been admitted at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital at Kumasi for treatment.

On Thursday, two Member of Parliaments, MPs of the area together with Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives, MMDCEs in the area respectively donated10 bottles of cooking oil, 10 bags of rice, 91 pieces of rubber plates, 30 rubber buckets, 60 cups, 22 mats and 8 bales of clothes to the victims. Other Philanthropists also gave them cooked food, money and sachets of water.

Mallam Lawal Mohammed, the linguist of Fodua Zongo, who took Daily Guide round the scene said, the incident has rendered some of them homeless since Wednesday and has destroyed many valuable properties. News in the Daily Graphic on Monday, June 17, has indicated that Fires from electricity and gas continue to cause considerable damage to lives and properties. It added that the country recorded 2,201 fire outbreaks in the first quarter of this year with markets being the most affected.

Days after the fires, the affected markets became mourning grounds, as traders and shop owners lamented over their losses.

The Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) estimated cost of damage to property in the first quarter to GH¢16 million.

From the total fire outbreaks recorded in the first quarter, it means that on the average, 18 fires occurred daily while 550 were reported monthly.

It appears that if the trend of fire outbreaks continues this year, the number will exceed the number recorded from last year.

In 2012, fire outbreaks recorded nationwide were 4,577 resulting in 295 deaths. The cost of damage was also estimated to be GH¢10,321,963.

In terms of regional distribution, the Brong Ahafo Region recorded the highest number of fire outbreaks with 378, followed by the Greater Accra Region, 330, Ashanti, 314 while the Volta Region recorded the least of 46 fires.

Major fire outbreaks and the plight of the victims:

Some of the major fire outbreaks recorded this year occurred at the Kantamanto Market in Accra, where virtually the whole place was razed by the firestorm.

Other markets that were affected include the Makola Number Two and Agbogbloshie markets and the Makola Shopping Mall all situated in Accra then Kumasi Magazine and the Kumasi Central Market.

The fire outbreaks at the markets left traders in agony because aside their losses, their livelihood and that of their dependants were destroyed.

For some time, they were asked to stay away from the sites where they hitherto earned a living until further directed.

Apart from the Kantamanto Market where traders have resumed work, the Makola Shopping Mall which was gutted by fire on May 24, 2013, remained barred to entry by the traders and was under security guard. The situation was not different at the Makola Number Two Market as traders were asked to keep off the site until investigations are complete.

Common Causes of Fire Outbreak:

Fire outbreak is never a pleasant incident. When fire breaks out, there are serious problems for the residents of that particular property as eliminating fire isn’t an easy task to carry out. There are many causes of fire outbreaks , but there are also many ways to prevent such events. Also, when a fire has destroyed a property, the property can be restored by hiring fire and flood restoration experts.

However, the wisest thing to do now is to stop the fire before it gets to the important assets of your property. The information provided below will help you do just that;

There are countless things that can set a house or building on fire. Sometimes fire outbreak results from a person’s carelessness but other times it’s just fate for which nobody can be blamed.

Below are some of the most common causes of fire outbreaks, which you should read in order to avoid them and save your property from any fire situation.

Gas Leakage

Gas leakage can cost you your precious home if not rectified on time. Gas leakage can be experienced in any property no matter how old or a new it is. When gas is leaking through the pipes in your kitchen area or any other part where gas is being used for cooking or for related purposes; a single matchstick can blow the entire place up.

Generally, natural gas is safe to use at home, but when it does not burn up completely due to faulty installation or lack of ventilation, it passes off a byproduct of carbon monoxide. The more carbon monoxide in the air, the less oxygen you would be able to inhale, potentially harming you. Because most domestic fires result from gas and electricity, all inhabitants of households must pay attention to correct the use of electricity and gas. All damaged and possible leaking cylinders must be immediately discarded.

Smoking Cigarettes

It is normally believed that smoking is hazardous to a person’s health but there are a lot more harm that cigarette smoking can do to the surroundings of the smokers. Smoking damages the environment as it spreads different diseases among those people who are near the smokers and are becoming a target of ‘second hand smoke’. Apart from all these, when a cigarette makes contact with something flammable, it holds the power to set an entire building or house on fire. So if you are a smoker, its time you realize that your habit can damage your home as well as your health.

Over Heating Of Electronic Equipment

Electronic equipment that is poorly installed with constricted air vents such as radios, stereo equipment, television and computers are expected to overheat. This would lead to fire outbreaks and related issues. So it is important that you always make sure to have all this equipment fitted and configured properly along with adding surge protectors in order to avoid electrical arcs or spikes equipment which can lead to sparking and short circuits. Thus, whether it is the cigarette smoking, gas leakage or electric equipment over-heating, we have learned that many things can ignite fire to your property which is why you should make sure that you put the proper measures in place to handle such fire and flood.

To be able to reduce or curtail fire outbreaks in the country we need to do the following:

  • The National Disaster Management Organisation, NADMO and the Ghana fire service have been doing their bit in dealing with disasters in Ghana. However, because their mandates are on disaster management, there is the need for a strong preventive measure to deal with fires in Ghana.

  • Bring together all institutions concerned with fire prevention and control including the Ghana fire service, the police and the army, NADMO and academia to embark on the following measures.

  • Study the trend in fires and their causes with the view of finding clear cut solutions to them via preventive measures taking into account the best practices in other parts of the world.

We recommend that a Public Safety Desk be establish at NADMO or any government organization to work on fire prevention by educating people in the neighborhoods and industrial set ups on how to prevent fires.

Public safety guard must also be formed to make sure all neighborhoods, industrial set ups and government offices conform to laid down principles in electricity and gas and naked fire use. This way we would be making headway in finding a solution to the frequent fire outbreaks in Ghana.

By Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai

Executive Director