The prayer on the lips of most people on the eve of every New Year is that the coming year should bring good tidings. It is too early to tell if the prayer has been answered 22 days into 2013 but the series of fire disasters witnessed in the first two weeks of the year in Lagos do not give cause for cheer. So far, about 125 buildings have been gutted by fire with the fire service receiving an average of 10 distress calls everyday.
According to the Director, Lagos State Fire Services, Mr. Rasaq Fadipe, "In year 2012, a total of 1,539 fire incidents were recorded in Lagos while about 125 fire incidents were recorded between January 1 -15, 2013. We receive an average of 10 fire distress calls per day, in recent times."
To fight fire effectively, Governor Babatunde Fashola had in the wake of his administration set up the emergency toll free numbers: 767 and 112 for quick response to emergency situations. Before the establishment of the toll free number, the state fire services only attended to three fire outbreak calls daily.
In 2007, when Fashola assumed office, there were only eight fire stations. He later established five additional fire stations, increasing the number to 13. All are well equipped. It was learnt that by the end of the first quarter of this year, two new fire stations would be commissioned. One of the fire stations is located at Abesan Estate and the other would be at Lekki Phase II.
Fadipe said the equipment provided by the state government had been helpful: "With the facilities provided by the governor, we have the capability to cope with any fire disaster in the state. Fire service responsibility is multifaceted. We respond to accident, fire, rescue, flood boat mishaps and prevention. We are always the first responder to emergency challenges."
"If the governor didn't establish the emergency toll free lines, many lives would have been lost and property worth billions of naira would have also been damaged through fire outbreaks. And the reason many lives and properties running into billions of naira were lost in the past was because residents don't know which number to call when there is any fire disaster.
"Besides, today, each of our vehicles have the ability to transport 10, 000 litres of water to emergency scene. We have skilful officers. But they wouldn't have been skilful if they weren't trained frequently especially on the job training. The state fire service men are well insured by a reputable insurance company."
During an inspection tour recently, Fashola said the state government had applied for the supply of 30 fire engines from a company in Illinois in the United States.
Some recent and most challenging fire outbreaks in Lagos include the June 3, 2012 Ojo Giwa Street, December 26, 2012 Jakanra, Lagos Island, fire disaster, caused by explosion of fire crackers that gutted over 10 buildings.
Fire outbreak safety tips
-Call the fire service immediately
-Evacuate the building or premises
-Don't push or pull
-Attack the fire with appropriate fire extinguisher
-Move to the assembly point
-Take roll call
-Portable fire extinguisher are checked regularly and installed in conspicuous places
-Electrical socket are not over loaded
- Electrical appliances are switched off while leaving home/close of work
- Electrical panels are tightly covered
-Escape route/exit doors are not blocked/padlocked
-Training/drills are conducted for members of staff regularly
-Ash trays are provided where smoking is permitted
-Candles are lit on protected base
-Children are not allowed to play with matches or lighters
-Gas cylinder are installed outside the kitchen
-Generator is not refueled while working or hot
-Fire notice are displayed in strategic and conspicuous locations
-Fire exits shouldn't be wedged
-Family designated emergency exit point should be created in a burglar proof