Ato, I just read your piece on the ‘helplessness’ of our fires service and I think it is a good piece. It touches on very important issues which must be tackled by our leadership and also individuals in our own small ways.

I agree with most of what you say, but I disagree on the point that the service is incompetent and that they ‘make heavy weather of even the laziest of infernos. It is true that the service is under-resourced and appears helpless in many instances, but we cannot quickly add that they are incompetent as a matter of fact.

I think it is only fair that we analyse each situation where they have ‘underperformed’ based on its own merits. The Rawlings case is a very peculiar one. We all want to call it a simple domestic fire, but was it? Not to put in a defence for the Fire service, but I have witnessed an instance where our FS have brought an industrial fire in a sawmill under control within an hour.

In the case of Rawlings, the FS would typically have quenched the head flame within half an hour after arrival, given that they arrived at the location in good time (minutes after they had been called). And they would only have needed one tender or two at most.

But the fact of the matter is that they had five tenders on location and still couldn’t save any property. Eye witness reports claim that there were at least five major explosions (and several minor ones) during the fire. This is not the usual thing you will expect in a household fire.

If there is ever an explosion in a domestic fire, you would expect one (or two in unusual circumstances) from the LPG in the kitchen or storage area. Now, we can’t speculate whatever the explosions were at the Rawlingses.

Maybe they had more than enough storage of LPG in their house. Maybe something else exploded. But that is all for speculation.

Ato, you will bear with me that no matter how well- or ill-equipped a fire service is, they can’t battle an explosion. They can only fight the remnant flames after the explosion… and that is what happened on Val’s day morning.

On the other recent fires, I’m sure they have been thoroughly discussed. The FS has always not been able to get access into markets during fires due to poor engineering of market layouts and the presence of stalls within access routes.

The problem with the Foreign Affairs fire was a simple logistic challenge – lack of a high rise fire tender. In the Rawlings case which definitely must have been an easy one to put out, there were unusual unexplained explosions, which may remain a mystery forever

So, yes, lets appropriately equip our FS, but let us also put some confidence in them. They definitely are capable of doing much more than merely quenching coal pot fires. I’m sure they are competent enough to help us all.

NOTE: The writer, a friend of mine, wishes to remain anonymous. That’s why his name is abbreviated.


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