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Opinions of Thursday, 17 January 2019

Columnist: Akyena Brantuo

Michel camp fire, Odorna-circle fire, where next?

Yesterday, Ghana woke up to news of loud explosions and inferno which had ravaged the armory of the Michel Camp Barracks, the base of the First Infantry Battalion of the Ghana Armed Forces.

Today too we have woken up to news of another fire. The Daily Graphic reports that as many as 80 stalls are reckoned to have been burnt down after a fire swept through the Odorna Market, otherwise called the Pedestrian Shopping Mall at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra Wednesday night.

News of fire outbreaks no longer surprises us anymore despite the valuable lives and property they destroy. We have gotten used to them. But such fire may come and go but not the lost and agony it bequeaths its victims.

Take for instance the heart-rending story of Mr. Ebenezer Ato Kessie, the Seventh-Day Adventist minister who lost a ‘family of five including a two-month-old baby to fire in Dansoman late last year, how should he be feeling now? His life, despite the kind and comforting words from the public, will never be the same again.

How about those who lost property instead, are their losses any less devastating? I doubt. For instance, a news report from Ghanaweb on fire outbreaks in the Ashanti Region covering the last decade estimate property loss of over GHC500 million. This is according to Desmond Ackah, Assistant Divisional Officer at the Regional Head Office of the Ghana National Fire Service.

Empathizing with such families are not enough. While we mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who have lost property, it would be irresponsible to do nothing. I suggest the following.

Every fire outbreak should be investigated thoroughly, promptly and findings made public.
Culprits should be punished in a manner which deters others from repeating similar offenses.

Ghanaians must be made to insure their lives and property against fire. The enforcement of such an insurance scheme should be modeled along the lines of how vehicles are insured and compliance of such insurance enforced by the Ghana Police service.

The Fire Service in Ghana should be retooled, retrained and expanded to be able to handle all fire situations irrespective of where they occur.

Access routes to homes and public buildings must not be allowed to be encroached on. The Town and Country Planning Department should ensure the planning of all settlements, including estates and public buildings. This should give access during emergencies.

Public buildings must be furnished with fireproofs, alarm systems and fire alerts etc.

The general public must offer greater cooperation by offering support for Public Policy and action in this direction and volunteer information on people who violate the fire protocols of our environment and support fire officers to do what is expected of them.

Safety education should be integrated into our educational system at every level