Recently, there was a fire outbreak in Ibadan, Abule-Ado (Lagos) and some other parts of the country. The fire outbreaks were in markets and business areas (shops). Luckily, there was no life lost but the unfortunate incident is that the source of income and means of livelihood of those affected is gone. Perhaps, the people affected could become the latest beggars in town. Even in the rainy season, we experience huge damage caused by fire outbreaks as it was experienced in the days past.
Over the years, a lot of fire incidence are not usually reported except when a big market in Kano, Aba, Lagos or Onitsha is gutted by fire. Between January and April 2023, 79 recorded fire incidents raced through 46 overcrowded IDP camps, leaving 7,091 households without basic humanitarian needs in Borno State; claiming nine lives. Fire is a thing dreaded by all and sundry.
Billions have been lost in the past few months in Nigeria due to unwarranted destruction caused by fire outbreaks. Fire is a rapid chemical reaction involving the combustion of fuel, typically in the presence of oxygen and an ignition source.
It releases heat, light and various byproducts and it can quickly spread and cause damage if not controlled. Understanding the components and behaviour of fire is crucial for fire prevention, safety and firefighting efforts. Understanding fire helps guide fire safety measures, emergency planning, and the development of effective firefighting strategies.
Fire can be a natural disaster or man-made catastrophe. Most fire incidents that happen in our markets are man-made and preventable. A school, home, car, church, offices or industrial buildings can come under fire due to technical fault, substandard cables or other reasons.
Sadly, whatever comes under fire is not only destroyed but totally consumed. This is the reason why many people are plunged into adversity, regret, grief and sorrow. A lot of people are seen asking themselves who has placed a curse in their lives or family due to fire outbreaks. We may not blame any particular professional for fire outbreaks but human errors and mistakes often end up in destruction.
However, before delving into the nature, causes and prevention of fire outbreaks, we want to consider the critical aspects of fire incidences in shops and markets. Many fire outbreaks in Nigeria are seen to have taken place in commercial centers – markets, shops or corporate offices of a government agency or even banks. Usually, fire outbreaks in our markets take place very late at night (1:00am to 2:00am) or very early in the morning (3:00am to 4:30am).
These are ungodly and dangerous hours. There could be something sinister about fire outbreaks in Nigeria. We must put our best foot forward in preventing and fighting fire outbreaks as a nation. There could just be few things that can cause fire to raze shops and markets.
One of them is electrical faults, malfunctions; such as short circuits, overloaded circuits or faulty wiring, which can generate sparks or heat, igniting nearby flammable materials. Unattended cooking, overheating oil and grease fires can be dangerous and spread wildly.
Sometime in the past, it was alleged that main market Onitsha is usually gutted by fire when all the imported goods arrive and are well parked inside the market. To what do we attribute this – arson. Deliberate acts of setting fires, either for vandalism, revenge, or insurance fraud purposes, can cause significant damage or endanger lives. We may glory that no life is lost when fire razes a market, but there is more to it than meets the eyes. Some may attribute it to mischief makers or fire from improper discarding of cigarette butts, still more things have to be done to curtail incessant fire outbreaks in Nigeria.
Rainy season poses threats from fire caused by lightning strikes during thunderstorms, volcanic eruptions, or wildfires. Malfunctioning or overheating machinery, appliances or industrial equipment can generate sparks or excessive heat leading to fires. More importantly, negligence, such as leaving flammable materials near heat sources, improper disposal of flammable waste or careless handling or fire-related activities can cause fire outbreaks.
Nonetheless, a lot can still be done to avert the scourge. Fire safety education, proper maintenance of electrical systems and equipment, responsible handling of flammable materials and adherence to fire codes and regulations, can significantly reduce the risk of fire outbreaks.
Safety measures like fire alarms, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems will make it easier to contain fire before it spreads. Governments should establish and enforce fire safety regulations and building codes to ensure that structures, including markets, shops, public buildings and residential properties, meet specific safety standards.
Governments should invest in professional firefighting services, including trained firefighters, fire stations and firefighting equipment. They ensure that these services are well-equipped and strategically located to respond quickly to fire emergencies. Thorough investigations should be conducted to determine the cause of each fire outbreak and identify any potential negligence or violations of fire safety regulations.
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Legal actions may be taken against individuals or entities found responsible for the fire, to ensure accountability and deter future incidents. Collaboration is needed amongst various agencies such as emergency management services (NEMA), police departments, and health departments, to develop coordinated responses to fire outbreaks. This collaboration ensures effective communication, resource sharing and mutual support during emergencies.
Governments should invest in fire investigation research to understand the causes and dynamics of fires better. This research will help in developing improved fire prevention strategies, technologies and building materials. Individuals and corporate bodies are not left out. Stringent measures should be taken by all to prevent and avert fire outbreaks.
It is noteworthy that during night-time or early morning hours visibility is reduced, and people may be in s state of sleep or drowsiness. This can lead to delayed detection of fires, resulting in a longer period for the fire to spread and cause extensive damage. Again, during late-night or early morning hours, emergency response times may be longer due to factors such as reduced staffing levels or fewer people available to report the fire.
This delay can allow the fire to grow in intensity before fire fighters arrive on the scene. It is important to note that fire outbreaks can happen at any time and awareness of fire safety measures, proper handling of appliances and activities, maintaining functional smoke-detectors is needed.