Fire Disaster on the increase across Monrovia

(Monrovia – September 25, 2013) The suffering of the Liberian people will just not go away. They must battle daily against poverty and disease. They must struggle to fine food, safe drinking water and shelter. And those who can manage a place to pass one night at a time, must go to sleep worried that their landlord or property owner may soon throw their things in the rain or sun in favor of the highest bidder. Horrifying still, is the crippling fire incidence across the city of Monrovia where over a million of the country’s 3.4 million people scramble for survival.

The frequency of fire disasters in Monrovia and its surroundings has added to the worries of the struggling citizens. It seems there is little or no option for especially the ordinary people. Public awareness against the damaging effects of fire outbreak, few and far in between, makes little sense. Hence, it is only a matter of time for the next fire incident to happen.

Occasioned by the lack of adequate and affordable electricity in the Capital, residents must live at the mercy of the use of combustible substances such as candle lights, mosquito coil, private generators or resort to power theft – the consequence of which has left the city literally ‘on fire.’

The government agency responsible to fight fire in the country, National Fire Service is helplessly loosing the fight against fire outbreak across the city - over 40 homes have been consumed in recent months.

Among the victims are a journalist and a media institution. Though media practitioners are understood to be among the most enlightened, as they are carriers of the news about fire prevention, they too have not been spared.

It should interest you to know that even the Ministry of National Defense is one of the casualties. The Ministry was attacked by fire in September 2013, destroying several papers including sensitive documents. The fire is blamed on ‘electrical shock,’ according to the Public Relations Officer.  

On July 19, 2013, Truth FM’s News Director, Solomon Ware himself made the headlines when his house was gutted by fire in the Johnsonville Community. The fire is said to have started in the generator room and before help could come from community dwellers, the entire three bedrooms building was consumed. He’s said had been out when the fire started and therefore was unable to recover any of his belongings and must now depend on friends and other kind hearted individuals to rebuild from the debris.   His wife and kid escaped unharmed.


Solomon walks out of his burned house with left hand in pocket

Solomon himself must have now recovered from the some sort of seizure he suffered in the aftermath of the outbreak. Friends and colleagues who rushed to see him said he fainted several times.

By some strange coincidence, Solomon’s employer, the Truth FM was hit by similar tragedy few months back. That was on April 1, 2013. The message was received as an ‘April fool’ but turned out to be a massive blow. It took just a spark [electrical] in the live studio to consume the hold studio equipment and other facilities. The station was forced to shut down for couple of months and when the management restored the facilities, it had to relocate from Ashmun Street to Duport Road, with better equipment, we are told. 

There are several other ordinary citizens who suffered this same fate but did not make the headlines.

In a community along the runway of the James Spriggs Payne Airfield in Sinkor, fire swept through a seven-bedroom building on July 5, 2013 and destroyed the entire structure. The fire, whose actual story still remains a mystery to that community, suddenly started and in no time, the building turned into charcoal and ashes. The structure was thought to be the third oldest in the community.

By the help of neighbors, occupants of the 45-year-old house were only able to get a few of their belongings as seen in the first photo above. The incident did not only make people homeless, but left bad memories behind as this was the first of such disaster ever in the community. Ironically, this area around the Spriggs, was one of the flash points of the civil war.

In spite of the setbacks these fire outbreak have visited upon their victims, there is always a glimmer of relief to hear that the flames went off without human causality. But that was not the case on April 25, 2013, when a three-storey building was gutted in Monrovia around the commercial district of ‘waterside.’ Six people, including two fire fighters and a one-year-old child were killed and several others injured, while thousands of dollars worth of properties were consumed. This was perhaps the biggest and most devastating fire incident of all yet.

Of equal sorrow still, in May, five people in a family were burned to death when an uncontrollable flame, swept through a three-bedroom house in the Tweh Farm, around the Duala Community. This one had an element of mystery as there were suggestions that the fire was influence by ‘African science.’ Every attempt to save at least one of the people in the house failed. The fire reportedly extinguished on its own when the last person died.

Most of the cases occurred either as a result of candle, electrical fault or generator, highlighting the failure of people to seemly adhere to safety tips provided by the Liberian National Fire Service (LNFS), but it had been established how this one happened.

Many a times when there is an outbreak, one serious dilemma is the inaccessibility of the communities. Communities are so congested that fire fighters cannot drive in to the affected homes. Added to the equation is the lack of logistics and sometimes water to fill the fire trucks.

At a news conference at the Ministry of Information, the Director of the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), G. Warsuwaul Barvoul called on the government and its partners to provide the much needed equipment to the agency to effectively carry out its duties.

Among other things, Mr. Barvoul said it was expedient that the agency opens local offices in each of the 15 counties since fire was a nationwide phenomenon.

However, Mr. Barvoul disclosed that fire prevention was paramount on the agenda of the Liberia National Fire Service, because it is often said ‘prevention is better than cure.’

The number of distress caused by fire could be minimized if residents were to take preventive measures against fire outbreak, but essentially, government must also equip the fire bureau to deal with this looming disaster. By Our Reporter

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