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Sierra Leone News: Fewer than 300 firefighters in Sierra Leone

The National Fire Force (NFF), Fire Prevention Unit Station Officer, Abdulai G. Bockarie, revealed that there are fewer than 300 firefighters in the entire National Fire Force of Sierra Leone. “Fire prevention is our top priority but currently we are under-staffed to do this crucial work,” he said. “We need more hands on deck to fight the frequent fire outbreaks.” Fires have recently destroyed buildings and structures along Campbell Street, the NASSIT building in Kissy and the Social Welfare Finance Department in New England Ville. Bockarie said the fires could have been avoided or easily prevented but, because the mechanisms are not in place, these fires occur on a frequent basis. He said substandard electrical materials and appliances, lack of suitable cooking space, old houses with poor wiring systems, aged materials, inaccessible roads to certain buildings, and improper fuel storage are a few of the reasons for the frequent fires. Bockarie revealed the NFF’s insufficient manpower capacity and the lack of adequate fire engines, as major challenges of the Force. Many people believe some of the fires are more suspicious, indicating that fires, especially at Government buildings, might have been caused by arson or intentionally lit. It is rumoured that these fires are started to hide corruption or the nefarious activities of workers or officials. The fire in the Ministry of Lands offices at the Youyi Building in 2013 remains unsolved and suspect. Fire prevention is the first stage in ensuring a safe environment in homes, schools, government buildings and other structures, said Bockarie. All these places should have fully functioning fire extinguishers, as a start. He said community people and neighbours should be taught what to do if a fire breaks out. One of Bockarie’s biggest complaints is about the Freetown traffic, which is difficult to navigate at the best of times. He said when drivers hear a siren or see flashing lights on emergency vehicles, they should slow down, move to the right (clearing the centre of the road) and then stop. This allows emergency vehicles, fire engines, police vehicles or ambulances, to pass along the middle of the road. Other fire prevention techniques include building with standard wiring and supplies that are not flammable. Wiring should be installed by an experienced electrician who knows the proper procedures for electrical wiring systems. Old, dry wood, cardboard, rags and paper are highly flammable, meaning they are quick to ignite, and fire consumes and spreads through these materials very easily.


By David Thoronka

Friday May 17, 2019.




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