Raymond Ozoji, Awka
Director and Chief Fire Officer of the Anambra State Fire Service Engr. Martin Onyedikachukwu Agbili says that the state fire service has introduced what he termed community fire fighting.
He said it was a new initiative which the fire agency developed because of the forthcoming dry season.
Speaking with our correspondent at the state headquarters Awka on Tuesday, Agbili said that the agency had been clamouring for increase in the personnel of the state fire service but that the government seemed to dilly dally in the recruitment of new fire fighters to fill vacancies occasioned by retirements from the service hence the introduction of community fire fighting.
He explained that community fire fighting was simply a situation whereby the communities assist fire fighters in fighting fire, sensitisation and prevention within the communities in Anambra state.
To actualise the objectives of the initiative, the State Fire Chief disclosed that the agency would conscript what he called community fire wardens which the fire service would train on preliminary fire fighting and fire safety management so that whenever there was fire outbreaks in the communities, the fire wardens would be first responders to hold on for fire fighters before they arrive at the scene.
He said the agency also plans to partner the Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU) to ensure the success and realisation of the initiative, stressing that why the agency deemed it necessary to partner community leaders was for the agency to leaverage on the existing structures in the communities.
Agbili also noted that apart from fire fighting, the community fire wardens would help checkmate bush burning as well as raise the alarm within the communities for people to cut down bushes and grasses in their houses, pointing out that dry season fire outbreaks mostly result from bush fire and attacks residential homes if not controlled.
According to him, the agency will continue to provide moral and physical training for the community fire wardens until the state government deems it fit to come up with full employment of fire fighters for the state fire service. He stressed that the whole essence of initiating community fire fighting was to take fire fighting down to the hinterlands where he observed that people were most vulnerable to fire incidents.
He added that due to absence of fire stations in the communities, there was need to have fire fighters in the rural areas to combat fire outbreaks even as he disclosed also that the state fire service intended to introduce fire safety in schools so that government would inculcate fire safety in school curriculum and that the agency would equally champion a legislation on the need to have safety clubs in schools where fire safety management could be taught.
In spite of the foregoing, the Director of the Anambra State Fire Service lamented that the agency was bedeviled with some challenges that required government urgent intervention. He said there was an urgent need to revalidate all that was in the state fire service for optimum service delivery especially as dry season set in.
Although he took cognisance of the fact that some approvals had been made, he said the agency was yet to access funds for implementation. Agbili however mentioned some of the agency’s basic needs to include recruitment of new fire personnel, replacement of faulty equipment as well as the purchase of the chemical foam compound used to extinguish fire.
He equally noted that the upward review of welfare packages for fire men had been done by the state government but that the agency still awaits pronouncements and actual implementation even as he stated also that there seemed to be no specific insurance cover for fire fighters in Anambra state.