Oyo State Chief Fire Officer, Adewuyi Moshood, speaks to WALE OYEWALE of PUNCH about the incessant fire outbreaks in the state, particularly the recent incident at Akesan market, criticisms against the service and the challenges facing it
Firefighters from the service in Oyo town were said to have been incapacitated during the fire outbreak at Akesan market because there was no water in their truck while others said the truck was faulty. What was the actual cause?
As of the time of the incident, the fire truck was faulty. The issue of having no water is just a rumour. The fire truck had attended to a fire incident. As soon as it returned, another mini market got burnt and the fire truck attended to it as well. But on return from the second incident, the truck developed a gear problem. It is the only one in the town. So, there was no alternative and the mechanic was unable to fix it. It was hoped that by the following Sunday morning, the repair would have been done, but the clutch plate could not be found in Oyo, so we needed to buy it in Ibadan. However, it was already late before we got it (clutch plate).
On the Akesan market fire incident, electricity was restored to the market around 2:16am. The fire started from one shop belonging to a tailor. Our men could have put out the fire and prevented it from spreading to other shops but hoodlums attacked them with machetes and rods. So, they had to run to save their lives. As I am talking to you, the fire truck which was vandalised, is still loaded with water. They vandalised the (fire) station. As I am talking to you, the firemen are not in Oyo because they cannot be sitting under the tree.
The governor listed the truck which was vandalised among the ones to be repaired. Is that truck still repairable?
It is repairable. Had it not been vandalised, we could have retrieved it the following day. But now that it has been vandalised, with a broken windscreen and others, it has to undergo comprehensive repairs.
Do you mean there is only one fire truck for Oyo district?
Yes. The fire station services four local government councils.
If you are to make a recommendation, how many fire trucks would be sufficient for the district?
Actually, we proposed another station to be located at Jobele, in Ilora axis. When that proposal was made, we wrote to the local government to allocate land to us. But presently, there is no supporting fire station for the one at Akesan market.
When was the last time the state fire service got a new truck?
The last vehicle was purchased between 2009 and 2010. So, we have been refurbishing them.
Will you say that you have sufficient personnel in the service?
No. In the service, that is part of our requests. Actually, we had been demanding that for a very long time but because it was not approved, we didn’t have any other option.
What is being done to improve the service in the state?
On Wednesday, the governor travelled to Oyo town and promised that the fire station and the market would be reconstructed soon. Arrangements are in top gear to get us new fire trucks and repair the vandalised ones that are serviceable but broken down. While we are proposing the purchase of 10 new ones, another five fairly used ones are also coming. These, added to the ones that are on the ground, will boost our efforts.
Has a date been fixed for the delivery of the new fire trucks?
The journey has just started. It was incorporated in this year’s budget; we didn’t know that all these things would happen. When the governor resumed office last year, he met us and we told him about our challenges. He showed concern. That was when we told him about our needs. It could have been incorporated into next year’s budget. Now, the journey has changed. It has been placed under an emergency situation now. But, I cannot tell you the exact time when the contractor will make delivery of the fire trucks. At least, presently, the arrangement is in top gear.
How regularly do your personnel get trained?
We have regular training but international training has been stopped a long time; I would say it has been over 30 years now.
As things stand, how many fire trucks are on the ground in Oyo State?
We have 15 fire stations and out of this, only nine have fire trucks. Excluding Oyo town, we have just eight trucks.
How many of such trucks are in Ibadan?
Four are in Ibadan and four are outside Ibadan.
Oyo State has recorded many outbreaks recently. What could be responsible for the situation?
The increase is as a result of our people’s carelessness. Their nonchalance attitude towards fire personnel is also accountable. We go to markets to educate them but when our men get there, the traders won’t attend to them. Hardly will 30 per cent of the traders listen to our lecture. Look at Akesan market, which accommodates about 1,000 or more traders; on several occasions, we visited and let them understand the intricacies. We even told them that if they would not listen to us, they should let their watchmen listen to us on power prevention methods and they (traders) could empower them (watchmen) by giving them refillable fire extinguishers. These are some of the challenges we face with traders.
On an annual basis, we take our campaigns to popular markets but they hardly listen to us. They ask us what we want them to say and tell us their shops won’t get burnt. Fire incidents do occur through human errors and negligence.
Going by your findings, what was the source of the fire outbreak at Akesan market?
A tailor forgot to switch off his pressing iron before leaving the shop. When electricity was restored, you know what would follow. You know, in the market place, a lot of traders have gas cookers, stoves and power generating sets. All these supported the combustion. They influenced the outbreak.
What should members of the public do to prevent fire outbreaks?
My advice is that they should begin to take interest in our campaigns and be more careful. They should ensure that electricity supply is cut off from sources when leaving home, office or shop. They can procure medium-sized fire extinguishers for their homes, offices and public places. They should listen to and treat firemen with respect.