opinionBy Robert Samukoko
FIRE costs lives, eats up capital and wastes resources of a country, useful as it is for cooking and other services, when it engulfs a building and there is no extinguisher, fire can be catastrophic.
Many of the fire brigades in Zambia exist only in name.
Although there are 17 fire brigades or more, the majority of them are limping.
All these combined have less than seven fire engines as others have been grounded.
The Ministry of Local Government would have to import 300 fire fighting appliances if the danger of fire destroying a lot of property and lives is to be curbed.
The equipment would help in fighting various types of disasters.
Consequently, ragged fire brigades have thrived.
Towns such as Kasama, Chipata, Choma, Mazabuka, Mbala, Mongu and Monze do not have a single fire engine.
Others grounded are Ndola, Kitwe and other towns having one or none.
Apart from providing up to date equipment much needs to be done.
To over haul fire brigades and make them tick and efficient, discipline in the fire services has sunk to the lowest.
The military type of discipline which is supposed to be installed in the offices is almost nonexistent because fire men who misconduct themselves are rarely chastised.
This is because of the shortage of skilled manpower.
Although fire men have a national training school that was established in 1968, there are things that need to be done to solve administrative problems at the institution jointly run by the Government and the councils.
The environment of the school is not suitable for realistic full scale exercises and demonstrations that go with the training for firemen.
Secondly, the instructors are also full time Kabwe firemen, the fact which has greatly affected the council brigade.
Fire brigades should from time to time organise drills to sharpen their officers' operational skills in case of a disaster.
Recently, President Michael Sata said the Government would establish more fire brigades and provide more firefighting equipment to enable effective response to emergencies.
He said he had created more districts to facilitate effective and sufficient service delivery to all parts of Zambia.
Mr Sata said the Government would formulate a national fire policy to provide overall guidance in managing the sector.
In conclusion if a soldier goes to the battle field he must have enough ammunition to fight the enemy, not with a fireman when they go to fight fires it's either they will have no water on the fire hydrant or they will start sourcing for water.
The Ministry of Local Government should look at this issue very seriously, as the issue of water used to be under council, and they never had the problem of water.