Makurdi — In recent times, cases of fire outbreaks have become rampart in Benue State as there is no week that passes without news of such inferno, which leads to the destruction of property.
Such incidents appear to be a replay of Anezi Okoro's literary novel titled 'One week, One trouble', especially in the state's capital of Makurdi, where virtually all parts of the metropolis has sad tales to tell about razed homes, business offices or schools.
The Benue Fire Service even testified that it has recorded 37 cases of fire outbreaks within the last two months in Makurdi metropolis alone.
Chief Fire Officer, Apine Lawrence in a chat with Weekly Trust at his office in Makurdi decried the increasing cases of fire incidents in the city, saying that at least seven cases were recorded in a week since the year began.
Only last week, a three-classroom block, where relief materials meant to be distributed to flood victims in Makurdi Local Government Area was engulfed by fire that rendered all the food stuffs useless.
Apart from the food items, the classrooms which cater for pupils of LGEA Primary School located at Wurukum was completely razed down by the late evening fire.
Barely a few days after the incident, another devastating inferno gutted the Makurdi resident of a People's Democratic Party's (PDP) chieftain, Chief Abu King Shuluwa, last Saturday afternoon, destroying the entire building and propriety valued at billions of naira.
It was gathered that the fire had started in one of the rooms in the apartment while the PDP stalwart and his wife were away to attend a church function in Katsina-Ala.
Efforts made by the person at home to quench the fire after it was noticed did not yield fruitful result as it was difficult to gain access into the rooms in the building.
When eventually fire men arrived the scene to put out the fire, the entire mansion was already in rubbles.
The cause of the fire according to the chief fire officer was not unconnected with electrical fault in one of the rooms. The quick spread of the fire to other areas of the building was as a result of the Brazilian ceiling cast.
Shuluwa while speaking to Weekly Trust about the unfortunate incident thanked God that no life was lost in the inferno but regretted the loss of vital documents that can never be retrieved.
"I am sad because I no longer have a history. My family no longer has a history because we have lost all our vital documents of sentimental value to the fire. I don't care about the building; the most painful thing is my documents," he said.
The PDP chieftain further explained that the documents included his school days pictures, his wedding and children photographs from their cradles up to other important events of their lives as well as artifacts of value purchased by his wife.
He also told Weekly Trust that the fire started in his wife's room and could have been caused by power surge from the air conditioner as they forgot to switch it off before leaving the house at 10am to Kastina Ala on the fateful day.
"I was alerted at 1pm that my house was on fire and besides, there was only my brother-in-law's daughter at home when the incident occurred. She was at the kitchen side of the building when the fire started and by the time she realized that the house was on fire, it was too late," Shuluwa added.
Corroborating what Shuluwa said, the Benue Fire Service boss attributed the immediate causes of most of the fire outbreaks in the town to electricity surge, arson and accidents due to illegal storage of fuel.
He maintained that the inability of people to alert relevant authorities on time is also a contributory factor to the level of damages done at the end of the day.
Lawrence moreover blamed the problem of water shortage, inability of people to alert firemen promptly and nonchalant attitudes of road users to clear way for fire service operation vehicles during emergency as causes for the delay in responding on time.
"People don't report fire incidents promptly. Members of the public do not clear the way on roads when our vehicles' sirens are blaring during emergencies. Some road users wind up their glasses at heavy traffic areas or have their earphones attached in such ways that they hardly hear the sirens," he said.
The fire boss listed water shortage as part of the challenges bedeviling their operations, just as he cited Shuluwa's case, where they exhausted a tanker of water during the incident.
"Water works don't supply water all the time to enable us fill our tanks from the water hydrant in our premises, so we have to go to the Water Work's yard to get water and it takes time. They give us consideration to fill our tankers urgently," he noted.
While appreciating that no life was lost in all of the 37 cases this year, he warned residents to be cautious at dry seasons, such that they should ensure the safety of their environs at all times by being fire conscious.
Lawrence stated that the additional recruitment of 200 staff into the state's fire service by Governor Gabriel Suswam's administration has boosted its manpower in facing the current challenges.
However, adequate staff training, according to the fire officer is required to equip the new manpower to fight the increasing cases of fire in Makurdi and other places in Benue state.
In the meantime, a burning fuel tanker's victim is still lying critically ill at a hospital in Markudi, while occupants of several houses have been rendered homeless due to fire incidents.