THE MORE I TRY TO CONCEAL IT, THE MORE IT KEEPS DISTURBING ME-LET'S TALK ABOUT FIRE
LET ME BREAK THE ICE
It is now 2 weeks after the fire disaster which made Wednesday 15th February, 2017 a black at Onitsha. I have refused to talk about it but my mind has not been at rest. I was continuously hearing a voice that usually tells, go and tell the world how it actually happened. You have been talking about other fire incidents why will you keep quiet on this particular one.
A lot have been said about Anambra Fire Service (the good, the bad and the ugly) but that notwithstanding we are still giving our best to the public. People have gone to the media to condemn Fire Service while some who understands Fire service are still praising and encouraging the firefighters.
NOW LET ME TALK ABOUT IT
Firstly, Anambra State Fire Service is deeply sorry about the loss of properties during that inferno but at the same time thanking God that after that fire disaster, no life was lost. God will surely replenish all that were lost. We are also grateful to the general public especially those who started trying their best to extinguish the fire before the arrival of Fire Service personnel.
I wish to also use this medium to thank the Executive Governor of Anambra State His Excellency Chief Dr. Willie Obiano for promising to buy 3 FIRE TRUCKS. For the first time in the history of Anambra State Fire Service, our Governor sent fire officers to go and inspects the Fire Trucks before it will finally land in Anambra State.
May I also use this medium to thank and appreciate Asaba Fire Station of Delta State Fire Service in a special way for the assistance they rendered to Anambra State Fire Service. This is what we call FIREFIGHTERS BROTHERHOOD. It can be recalled that Anambra State Fire Service do sometimes cross over the bridge head (Asaba) to extinguish fire. Fire Service and firefighters are one.
Fire Service and firefighters in Anambra State has been fighting serious fire since November 2016 to February 2017 but that of 15th February 2017 was the height of it all.
On that fateful day at Awka, firefighters were seriously engaged in fire fighting within Awka capital territory in 4 different locations (Nimo, Bank Road Unizik Perm Site, serious bush fire at Unizik & Abakiliki Road/Behind Kofi) which I was fully involved. It was when we were moving to the last fire outbreak among the 4 locations that the distress call came to my private phone that a petrol tanker fell at opposite DMGS Onitsha and that I should help in calling Fire Service and that Awka division of the Fire Service should equally come for assistance. The time was 2005 Hrs (8.05pm). I immediately told the caller Awka people cannot come to Onitsha as we were also battling another fire at that moment.
I got our Okpoko Fire Station on line at about 2010 Hrs and told them to move immediately. I also called Main Market Fire Station to move to the fire scene. I continued to monitor their movement through phone call to make sure that they got to the fire scene. As at this point, more than 20 calls came into my mobile phone for the same purpose. Unfotunately, Nnewi Fire Station was also engaged with fire fighting when they were called for assistance.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE SCENE OF FIRE?
I will like the general public to understand something here. We must know this.
The fire truck which the firefighters are using in fighting fire is only carrying some volume of water which must finish. The truck is not carrying the whole of RIVER NIGER in that tank that it will not finish. We must also understand that once the water finishes that firefighters must carry their fire truck to go and do refilling because there is no FIRE HYDRANT in any location in Anambra State which Fire Truck can easily be refilled easily while fighting fire.
okpoko Fire Station got the scene of fire before Main Market Fire station. The first fought for some time and their water finished and they left in search of water at that time of the night. The same thing happened to the second fire truck. As they left, the fire continued to spread to other buildings and places.  It was at the time of their search for water that they met the Asaba Fire Station with one Fire Truck and directed them to the scene of fire. They also called to inform me that Asaba Firefighters are there for assistance. They came and tried their best on the fire outbreak. Anambra Fire Service Trucks later managed to get water and came back at the same scene of fire to join them. At this point, we firefighters at Awka left Awka to Onitsha after we had finished battling with the one at Awka.
As at the time we (including the Director of Fire Services, Anambra) got to the fire scene from Awka, Asaba Fire Truck was still there at the scene. We all joined hands to fight the fire. We were still there when the firefighters from Asaba left and did not come back because their own water finished and because they do not know anywhere they can refill their tank at that time of the day in Onitsha.
Those who were still around at the scene will testify that Anambra State Fire Service personnel and trucks were the last to leave the fire scene. We left the fire scene around 0200 Hrs (2am) to Awka and personally I got back to meet my family at about 0300 hrs (3am).
WHAT HAVE PEOPLE BEEN SAYING?
A lot have been said by different people about the role of Anambra State Fire Service during that fire disaster.
*Some said that Anambra State Fire Service did not come.
*Some said that it was Asaba Fire station that fought the fire.
*Some said that Anambra state Fire Service came with empty tanker.
*Some said that if not Asaba the whole of Onitsha would have been engulfed by fire.
*Some said that when the called Anambra Fire Service that their phone numbers where switched off.
*Some said that they called Anambra Fire service and they said that their fire truck is in bad condition.7
*Some said that Anambra Fire Service came after the fire must have damaged everything.
*What some people said is not the issue now but which one can be correct in all the above.
If you were really there during or after the disaster you will also join me to ask these simple questions to some people.
*Does it mean that one Asaba Fire Truck fought the whole fire that destroyed people’s properties?
*Does it mean that the other fire trucks of Okpoko, Main Market and Awka fire Stations are now from Asaba?
* Does it mean that the water in Asaba Fire Truck did not finish till when myself we left the fire scene?
WHAT THE PUBLIC SHOULD BE DONING WHENEVER THERE IS FIRE OUTBREAK
I wish to use the medium to advice the general public on what they should be doing whenever there is fire outbreak so as to assist Fire Service.
*There is no fire hydrant available anywhere; therefore the general public should try as much as they can to collectively bring in water tankers that will help to refill the fire trucks at the point of the fire outbreak. This will help firefighters to remain at the fire scene and fight the fire to finish. If not, as they are leaving the fire scene to search for water, the fire they have stopped will reignite.
*Many a times, those who are selling water will ask firefighters to pay before they can refill the fire truck. But question should be; are firefighters been paid after rendering their humanitarian service to people. The answer remains “NO”. The same case was experienced on that D-day of fire disaster when our firemen where searching for water to refill their tank.
THE MEDIA AND FIRE SERVICE
The media (social media inclusive) has a lot of role to play in the development of Fire Service anywhere.
I was surprise that during the time of this fire disaster that most of the media professional and media operators decided to air anything they heard without confirming from the Anambra State Fire Service how it happen. Some were busy taking pictures of what they will use to paint Anambra state Fire Service black.
In the same vein, I sincerely wish thank and appreciate some media operators who took their time to interview Fire service on the issue at hand after the incident to actually know actually happened. I am most grateful to ABS Radio & TV, MINAJ, Alfa Radio, NTA Channel 5 Awka & some Social Media operators who still believe in the activities of the firefighters in Anambra State.
GENERAL ADVICE
There has been INCESSANT FIRE OUTBREAK in many part of the this country especially in my own dear State, Anambra.
1. Please avoid anything which can cause fire outbreak.
2. Clear the bush around your homes & offices because majority of the recent fire outbreaks are triggered through bush burning.
3. Check your fire extinguisher and make sure that they are functional. If you do not have any, order for one. You will need it some day.
4. The surroundings of Markets, Churches and factories should be kept clean at all times.
5. Do not allow Children to go closer to your cooking gas and if you must use yours, open the windows of your kitchen at least 10 minutes before using the gas cooker.
6. If you evntually see fire, raise alarm for the public to be aware and at the same time call the closest Fire Service office around you.
A lot of things you can do to avoid fire outbreak. Do not wait for fire to start for you to call Fire Service and firefighter for extinguishment.
Please do the needful so that one will not start to blame anybody for fire disaster.
Above all, FIRE KILLS BUT YOU CAN PREVENT IT.
FIREFIGHTÈRS WILL NEVER STOP TO GIVE THEIR BEST
BEAUSE;
We love the things others fear,
We control their greatest enemy.
Not many people remember us,
Not many people care,
Unless a life is saved or lost,
While we are fighting there.
We learn to respect the fire we fight,
And even love it too.
In order to end it’s destructive path,
It’s what we train to do.
There are many who cannot comprehend,
Why we love the things they fear.
We’re the first they call in their time of need,
It’s the reason that we’re here.
The next alarm might make us proud,
And heroes of some kind,
Or maybe it will be our last,
In service to mankind.
But whatever fate may bring us,
It doesn’t change our hearts.
We’re Firefighters to the end,
We’ll always do our part.
We’re to the core, humanitarian.
FIREFIGHTER’S BROTHERHOOD FOREVER.
GOD BLESS FIREFIGHTERS IN ANAMBRA STATE, NIGERIA AND IN THE WHOLE WORLD.
Safety First and Safety Always.
I am still your servant,
Engr. Martin Agbili (AGILITY)
o/c Fire Prevention/Training/Senstization
Anambra State Fire Service

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