Why Kenya is ‘burning’ for a fire disaster management and reforms.

Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu (centre) tries out one of the fire engines when he officially presided over the opening of the 3rd Fire Academy at the Thika stadium.
Fire fighters in Kenya have appealed to their respective county governments to give prominence to the department that according to them, has been grossly neglected them for years.

While speaking at Thika Sub-County Stadium during the official launch of the 3rd Fire Academy, the firemen said that despite the risky nature of their profession, they neither have medical nor insurance cover notwithstanding the poor remuneration and lack of the requisite firefighting equipment in most of counties.

The Kenya National Fire Brigade Association (KeNFiBA) Secretary General Francis Omollo reckoned that most counties were faced with a severe shortage of fire engines and equipment, a move that has incapacitated the brigade.

He said that lack of investment in firefighting equipment and personnel had left so many Kenyans feeling exposed every time infernos struck adding that most counties lacked the capacity to respond effectively to fire outbreaks leading  to loss of lives and destruction of property worth millions of shillings.

“As fire fighters, we are dealing with an impossible mission and it is time Kenyans know that we have been trying to do our best under very risky circumstances. There is a great need to drastically improve all aspects of fire fighting in the country, including insuring emergency workers such as fire fighters against injury and death resulting from fire emergencies and other related disasters,” Omollo said.

Omollo said it was unfortunate that the firemen were always on the receiving end of the wrath of fire victims for mistakes that at times, were not of their own making.

“We are regularly attacked for not doing our job properly but these residents will never understand what we undergo through in the line of duty. Inadequate staff, lack of proper equipment and inability to control crowds at fire scenes have made the job of firefighters difficult,” he said.

Kiambu County Chief fire Officer Samuel Kahura highlighted some of the challenges they underwent in their course for duty which included among other things, public institutions failing to install hydrants so that fire trucks can easily tap in to put out fires, instead of having to going for long distances to access water.

“During major fires, our trucks are forced to drive about 3 kilometres in some areas of the county whenever fires erupt. We are also faced with the problem victims of fire outbreaks taking too long to contact us and by the time they do so, it is too late to minimise the damage to property and contain the spread of the blaze,” explained Kahura.

He added that one of major problems they experienced was accessing some areas due to overcrowding, especially in slum areas.

He however acknowledged that, compared to other counties, Kiambu was better prepared with 7 sub-county fire offices, 10 fire engines and 90 firefighters.
Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu promised to address some of the issues raised and keep improving the sector to ensure it was more efficient.

“I will immediately embark on a programme to evaluate and resolve your remuneration, insurance and living conditions. We will also try to bridge the deficit in your workforce by employing more staff and adding more stations to meet the emerging needs within the county,” said the governor.
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