Ghanaian Chronicle

When Fires Ruin The Nation

Date published: January 22, 2013

By Anthony Kwaku Amoah


“If there is any challenge that most Ghanaians would want dealt with in the first few weeks of this year, it is the rampant fire outbreaks across the country”-The Mirror (January 19, 2013).

Nowadays, the Ghanaian media have no option but to devote their time, space and resources to stories on fire outbreaks. Lives and property are being destroyed every now and then. The catastrophe is hastily gravitating towards a state of emergency.

Available data show that about 369 fire outbreaks happened in January 2011 as against 706 in January 2012. The Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) says we have so far experienced 264 cases.

The first week of the year, we’re told, recorded 166 fire outbreaks. Of this, Ashanti Region had 52 cases, Greater Accra, 51; Brong Ahafo, 28; Central Region, 10; Eastern, 10; Western, 7; Northern, 2 as Volta, Upper East and West regions tallied one each.

The GNFS has categorized these fires into domestic, vehicular, electrical, commercial and industrial with domestic ones topping the list. 20 of such fires occurred in Ashanti, 18 in Greater Accra, Brong Ahafo, 9; Western, 7; Central, 6; Western, 4; Northern, 2 with one each in Volta, Upper East and West regions.

Under vehicular fires, Greater Accra had 3; Ashanti, Central, Brong Ahafo, and Eastern had two, one, five and one respectively compared to 7 of electrical ones in Greater Accra and one each in Ashanti and Central regions.

Ashanti Region experienced 12 commercial fires; Greater Accra, 7; Brong Ahafo, 4 with Central, Western and Upper East registering just one each.

The MTN Warehouse on the Spintex Road in Accra, the Suame Magazine (Kumasi), Tema BBC Industries, and Tarkwa incidents are not yet forgotten considering the colossal quantity of resources which was lost.

Hmm…! For all you know, an important facility somewhere is on fire now, begging for instant media coverage and public rescue. We must learn to observe basic fire safety precautions.

For how long can we look on while our country goes down in flame? The wailings of households, traders, company managers and workers must end. We are already grappling with a heap of socio-economic and cultural mishaps, including ineffectual healthcare system. Allowing this rising trend of infernos to persist will mean subjecting the nation to total destruction.

Those days in secondary school, guidance and counseling services were quite interesting. Career guidance was a major part of school curriculum. Professionals, including fire experts visited schools to give basic education on fire safety and prevention. Can’t we do same today?

Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) must strictly enforce bye-laws, rules and regulations on fire safety and prevention and also strengthen the operations of agencies, like the GNFS, NADMO and ECG. They must be adequately resourced and monitored.

Homes, markets, and other establishments must be encouraged to have functional fire extinguishers. Corporate institutions, NGOs and philanthropists can be reached to supply these devices to needy homes for free.

Local assemblies should go beyond just the collection of tolls to ensuring that market facilities are also upgraded and maintained. Those who indulge in illegal electrical installations should be identified and sanctioned. Slums must be destroyed to give way to estates but has to be done with caution to avoid human rights violations.

Citizens must be advised against the use of quack electricians. Before electric meters and other accessories are issued to consumers, ECG officials must first ascertain the quality of electrical works on buildings.

The school and the mass media should be empowered to provide quality education on fire safety, prevention and management. Fire, as we all know, has its positive and negative sides. Media outlets should continue to give prominence to fire issues. Teachers should use societal and club meetings to disseminate basic knowledge on fire to pupils/students.

As the weather gets drier, bush fire cases in hinterlands are expected to soar.  Local authorities must be wide alert to clamp down on recalcitrant farmers, hunters and tappers who may want to disturb the ecological balance through bush fires.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture through its Extension Division must be reinforced to carry out its core mandate of providing new, better farming technologies to farmers.

In fact, this issue of fire outbreaks must concern all, including now the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovations, Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, Ministry of Information and the Environmental Protection Agency. This annual ritual of fire outbreaks is becoming unbecoming and the time to act is NOW!

NB: This piece is dedicated to my Alma Mater, Three-Town Secondary School at Denu and residents of the newly created Akatsi North District in the Volta Region.

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