The authorities should enforce building codes and regulations

Even when we concede that fire outbreak in public buildings is not a new phenomenon, the rate at which they occur in our country is alarming, and sometimes suspicious. But what all the recent developments point to is that there is need for a better appreciation of the challenge posed by fire outbreaks. In most countries, it is not just enough to design and construct buildings, it is more important to make allowances for a possible outbreak of fire by ensuring the availability of fire-fighting equipment in such facilities. While we are aware that such codes and regulations are also available here, but they are rarely ever enforced.  

Statistics from the Nigeria’s Federal Fire Service (FFS) revealed that the number of fire incidents caused by electrical sparks is becoming a huge menace. It was the number one cause of fire outbreaks in 2021 with 636 of such incidents, while electrical equipment caused 447 fire cases. The service also recorded 567 cases with unknown causes while accident, arson and automobile fires were 294. The FFS further stated that gas and special services caused 151 fire incidents while cigarette stub and bush burning caused 133 fires. Besides, high voltage from the power distributing companies, candles, building collapse, and others are also part of the problem.  

Meanwhile, early detection of fire is a crucial step in fire prevention, and this should be ensured through individual alertness, volunteer system and the installation of automatic fire detection systems at various points in buildings. Our urban planners should also ensure that there are enough access points through which fire fighters and emergency personnel could gain entrance to put off a fire before it spreads. There have been several cases, especially in markets across the country where limited access for the fire fighters made it difficult for them to attack the inferno. 

We must commend the FSS for keeping records, but they must do more. According to their report, a total of 136 lives were lost in 2021 due to the fire caused by the many ignition sources. A breakdown of lives lost from each cause is: electrical equipment fire, two; electrical sparks, five; candle, one; high voltage, two; gas, 19; accident/arson/automobile, 36; building collapse, 50; false calls, 11; under investigation, four and unknown, six. To reduce the increasing regularity of these fire outbreaks and the attendant dangers to lives and property, it is very important to: step up advocacy on the issue; conduct regular fire drills in public buildings; enforce existing fire codes and put in place new ones. 

 We have had more than enough fire tragedies that ought to have warranted the entrenchment of various forms of mechanism by the operators of public and private places to reduce occurrences. Most irksome is that some of the incidents culminating in this colossal damage were caused by the careless attitudes of individuals who fail to learn any lesson from similar developments in the past. We therefore call on the federal, state and local governments to come up with sound and effective mechanisms to protect important places, buildings, markets and institutions from fire incidents. We also challenge these various governments to as a matter of urgency, revamp and mobilise the fire service to perform optimally. Stringent measures should also be put in place to punish any individual or group which carry out any activity resulting in inferno and leading to unnecessary loss of lives and property. 

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