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‘Edo Fire Service lacks capacity to tackle infernos, 10 years on’


Phil Hallmark located along Sapele Road burn to the ground.

For the past ten years, the Edo State Fire Service has not been able to successfully put off an inferno in spite of support from other fire service agency run by the private firms like the University of Benin, IDSL, and Nigerian Air Force, among others.

This is because the state government failed to invest in that critical sector over the years while the little investments have been frittered away.

It has always been a tale of non-serviceable vehicles, lack of necessary chemicals and liquids, particularly water to put off fire.

The state fire service is mainly into Fire Brigade, Emergency Rescue and offering Fire Safety Services, Humanitarian Counseling Services, Property Rescue, Rescue Operations and Road Accidents Emergency Rescue.

The latest evidence of the sordid state of the service came to the fore late last year when a fire outbreak occurred in Phil Hallmark, a multi-million naira shopping mall in Benin City, razing down almost the entire building and destroying goods worth millions.

The state fire service failed to respond to the emergency until private firms came to the rescue, which was belated.

Governor Godwin Obaseki had in his displeasure at the incident, said the state government would probe activities of the State Fire Service, which was first contacted when the inferno started and they could not do anything to put out the fire on the excuse that their vehicles were not serviceable.

Obaseki, who was shocked at the level of damage done to the mall, described it as catastrophic and a major disaster.

“This incident happening at this time of the year is a catastrophe. I have asked for written report and investigation into the cause of the fire.

We will also investigate the claim by an official of the state fire service on the allegation of lack of equipment.  Because I understand that trucks were distributed by the NDDC and the state government during the last administration,” he said.

Fire fighters from the University of Benin, Nigeria Air Force, IDSL were mobilised to assist in putting off the fire but the burglary and other security gadgets in the complex slowed down rescue efforts.

Tragedy was averted in Aduwawa Benin City in August last year as six vehicles, including a truck-laden with petrol and several locked up stores were burnt and destroyed by fire following an explosion of the tanker.

It took the timely intervention of men of the Edo State Fire Service to avert a major fire disaster, which would have consumed the Aduwawa Market and its environs.

The Guardian gathered that the truck had its spring broken as it was trying to negotiate a u-turn from the Aduwawa end of the Auchi Benin Expressway to Upper Mission extension but fell.

Also on August 3, 2015, the Edo State Independent Television/Radio (ITV) was gutted by fire, which affected parts of its radio and TV studio.

The fire started few minutes after 9pm during the broadcast of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) network news.

A staff of the organisation said combined forces of fire fighters from the Edo State Fire Service, the University of Benin Fire Service and the Military Fire Service prevented the inferno from ravaging the station.

In December 2013, parts of the Ministry of Education were gutted by fire, which destroyed Primary School Leaving Certificates belonging to the defunct Bendel State, now and Edo and Delta states and several other vital documents.
 The certificates affected were said to date back to the Mid-Western region period, as well as those of the present Edo State.

Fire service personnel only arrived the scene after much damage has been done. 
However, The Guardian gathered that there has been a policy to position the establishment for quick responses to emergencies.

It was gathered that the first step was to raise the educational background of the personnel in the service and they were advised to register for part-time degree courses.

A senior civil servant in the establishment told The Guardian that: “This is because fire-fighting is a job for university graduates as it is the case in America and Europe.”

As part of the proposals for the Service, Chairman of the Board of the State Fire Service in 2011, Frank Guobadia was quoted as saying that the service, if fully operational, would provide service not only in the city, but the 18 local councils in the state.

“The big trucks will be stationed in Benin. Each local government will set up a fire station with mini fire vehicles following our technical advice, while Auchi, Ekpoma and Uromi will also have a fire truck in addition.

Despite all these, we will still be meeting with hotel owners, petroleum dealers and other stakeholders to discuss issues of fire safety, fire-fighting and fire prevention strategies,”
he added.

Stakeholders have urged the state government to look into the emergency response, especially fire, which past governments treated with levity.

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