Sokoto Fights Fire

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Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal,  recently inaugurated 10 fire fighting trucks in a bid to enhance operations of the state fire service, writesMohammed Aminu

Cases of fire outbreaks always leave a lot of destruction in their wake both in human lives and property. When fire breaks out, there are serious problems for the residents of the particular property, as putting out fire is not an easy task to do. Such calamities are caused largely by human errors and careless handling of cooking wares, naked fires in our markets, homes, offices, bushes and industrial areas.

It is well known fact that fire outbreaks happen without notice. This uncertainty means fire-fighters must be prepared for firefighting at all times. So, it is predictable that ill-prepared fire-fighters can’t function appropriately; and when there is a fire, without proper fire-fighting the flames will win.

Fire outbreaks have assumed an alarming proportion in Sokoto State. There is barely a day without the occurrence of one incident or the other leading to devastating societal dislocation and massive destruction of property. This ugly trend further pauperises the victims of the fire disaster thereby leading to frustration and agony.

Sokoto recorded 553 fire outbreaks last year with property worth N3.1 billion destroyed in the state while 11 persons lost their lives. Strategic places like Sokoto Old Market, Kara Timber Market and several homes were all affected by fire disasters leading to loss of goods and property worth hundreds of millions of naira. Similarly, more lives and property had been lost to inferno during the present harmattan period in Sokoto, as recent statistics indicated that 95 fire outbreaks were recorded in January 2018 alone.

It was in view of the incessant fire outbreaks in the Sokoto metropolis and its environs, coupled with the need for quick response in case of inferno, that Governor Aminu Tambuwal, procured 10 fire fighting vehicles and equipment worth N339. 9 million to boost the operations of the State Fire Service in a bid to save lives and property.

Speaking at the inauguration of the fire fighting vehicles in Sokoto recently, Tambuwal said the machines would bolster the operations of the Department of the State Fire Service in Sokoto metropolis and its environs. “The government is committed in taking necessary measures to protect lives and property of its citizens. As such, the present administration provided these additional 10 vehicles for firefighting to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in controlling disaster across the state. “Moreover, eight additional new fire stations unit will be established soon to support the existing ones in the state.”

The governor stated that zonal offices for State Fire Service were recently constructed in Wurno,  Gwadabawa, Tangaza and Tambuwal local government areas of the state to improve safety. He posited that the provision of additional vehicles has brought the number of functional fire fighting engines to 18.  “Two water tankers have been bought to serve as back up to the fire engines. We also refilled 1,050 fire extinguishers at Sokoto Central Market and also provided new uniforms for the officers and men of the department,” he stated.

Tambuwal added that plans were underway to introduce ambulance services across the state, particularly on the highways to help accident victims.

Speaking with THISDAY on the issue, the Director General of the Sokoto State Fire Service, Alhaji Murtala Muhammed, said the state government had adopted proactive measures towards effective fire fighting in the state. Muhammed stated that the governor recently approved the construction of eight additional fire stations within the Sokoto metropolis. According to him, this is in addition to the construction of Zonal Fire Stations in the three senatorial districts of the state worth millions of naira.

He explained that the government also provided the Department with all the needed equipment for effective performance such as rain boot, fire jackets, staff uniforms, oil and chemicals among others. “All what we needed for effective firefighting has been provided to us by the government. You see, it is not all fire that you will use ordinary water to extinguish. Some fire outbreaks require chemicals to extinguish.

“We used to face some difficulties in sourcing water during fire outbreaks, so the state government provided us with two additional  boreholes one at Arkilla Fire Station and another at Kofar Tarauniya Station, including two long-truck water tank with 30,000 litres capacity. We now have two boreholes for sourcing of water. With this, we will be able to refill six fire engines at the same time. So, we no longer have problem of water.”

The director general pointed out that the staff are diligent in their work and highly motivated because of the priority given to their welfare by the present administration. He however, noted that the state fire service was currently facing shortage of staff because of the additional 10 firefighting vehicles procured by the present government. “We have 142 staff and require an additional 200 staff. This is because we run three shifts a day and for each vehicle, at least eight people are required. “We also have challenge of training our staff due to the recent procurement of modern fire fighting engines by the governor. And the best way to tackle this problem is to train our staff to face modern challenges of fire fighting. Our salary is still good because the staff have shift and hazard allowance that are paid on time. Therefore, they are highly motivated to do their work diligently,” he said.

He attributed the cause of most of the fire outbreaks in the state to negligence on the part of the individuals, carelessness and also electrical faults. The director general insisted that safety attitude is the responsibility of the residents and the best thing to do to prevent fire outbreak is to be safety conscious, adding that life is the most precious thing that people have to protect against fire.

He commended Governor Tambuwal for donating N169 million to victims of fire disaster at the Sokoto Old Market to cushion their suffering. Muhammed said the governor recently bagged an award for his commitment to safety in the state. “It is actually  because of Tambuwal’s  support to the Department of the State Fire service,  that he was recently honoured with the prestigious 2017 State Governors National Safety Excellence Award by the Fire Disaster Prevention  and Safety Association of Nigeria(FDPSAN). “So, Sokoto State is second to none in terms of firefighting because government has provided us with all the necessary equipment and logistics. In fact, you will be surprised to hear that there are some states that don’t have fire stations and some states do not have more than even one vehicle,” he added.