THE recent fire outbreak at the Kigamboni Ferry in Dar es Salaam should serve as a lesson of what is really in store for marine commute; it’s not something to be treated as a ‘normal’ fire incidence, even though we seem socialized on ‘business as usual’ mode.
The fact was not just a dangerous precedent but also likely to cause pain and huge economic losses if not kept at bay. The fire was reported to have gutted down seven shops lined in a row close to a Kobil Petrol Station before it reduced its wares to ashes under the very noses of the owners and neighbours.
On 26th July, 2011, the same fire was reported in the same area when a vehicle’s electric system suffered a short-circuit and what followed was the whole vehicles being ‘consumed’ in fire.
Last January, a room containing passenger luggage was hardest hit when fire broke out at Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA); however, the airport fire brigade managed to extinguish it, before the authorities forced passengers to use Terminal I as an alternative while battling the fire.
The list can go on ad infinitum because we often attribute these accidents to so-called ‘acts of God’ which are, in turn, fortified by such Kiswahili idioms as ‘Ajali haina kinga (literal, accidents have no prevention)’ that, in short, mean we’re resigned to fate.
Yet what begs attention is, how is the public prepared to handle cases of fire erupting in their midst before the designate ‘official’ firefighters arrive on the scene of accident?
We often find it easier to trade blames than finding solutions.
There have been cases where people run helter-skelter whenever fires erupt in a building; at these, we only turn up as ‘spectators’ and watch how fire is consuming their goods and blame firefighters for having arrived late or without enough water.
A spot-check in many homes and public houses will reveal cases where almost all of them have no fire extinguishers and, if they do, the majority of people are totally green on how to use them.
If another spot-check were to be mounted on motorists, we would be treated to sheer theatrics: a painful picture of people behaving as they are mounting “road shows” to please the police traffic officers; in fact, they don’t know how to operate even the simplest of fire-fighting tools, or even how to behave once a fire erupts.
It is high time the public is taught how to handle fire in their homes, institutions and market places and, to create such awareness, it should start from the bottom, to cite an example, of pupils being taught how to contain fire in schools and in public buildings.