They were the antitheses of the celebrations people looked forward to late last year in Anambra State (the Christmas and New Year). They certainly blighted whatever hopes such people had as a very difficult 2015 wound down. They were the fire incidents that not only destroyed property, but life.
The unfortunate incidents included the fire that gutted parts of Ose Okwodu Market in Onitsha, parts of Ochanja Market also in Onitsha and the one that took place at Chikason Gas Plant in Nnewi. The one at Chikason claimed six lives, amid fears of more. But even as the New Year took shape, another fire incident was recorded at Organiser Petrol Station in Amuko, Nnewi, on the 3rd of January.
Indeed these fire incidents, especially the ones at markets, during the festive period have become a major headache to the people of the state, given that they occur on a yearly basis. Their regular occurrence therefore suggests that nothing has been done to check the trend.
This has led to people losing their lives' earnings in such fires, with government often making frantic but belated efforts to ameliorate the situation.
We therefore join other well-meaning citizens of the state to express concern over these unchecked fire incidents.
It is known that these fires almost always come at a particular time of the year which is the harmattan period. This is a period when everything and everywhere is dry and liable to catch fire. This presupposes that everybody has to be vigilant and avoid anything liable to ignite fires.
But it is known that the attitude of the members of the public towards preventing such incidents is not encouraging. Often times electrical appliances are left switched on when they leave their offices or shops, thus making it easy for fires to be ignited at the slightest prompting.
Therefore the members of the public are the ones to first take preventive measures against fire outbreaks before government should come in. In individual homes, it is not government that will come and keep vigil to ensure fires don't break out. It is the concerned individuals that should do so.
However as regards offices, petrol/gas stations and the like, extra measures should be taken to safe guard not just those places but buildings and people around them.
The case of the Chikason Gas Plant explosion in Nnewi is worthy of mention here. The fire that gutted the place also affected surrounding buildings, leading to loss of lives.
With this in mind, it is clear that such facilities should not be sited within residential or thickly populated areas. Indeed industrial layouts should be created by the government in isolated areas with laid down rules and regulations to guard against fires. A situation where we have many petrol stations and gas plants mixing with residential buildings is not acceptable.
As regards to markets there should be market security personnel who will be charged with enforcing traders' compliance to laid down rules and regulations such as switching off all electrical appliances at the end of each day. If possible, government should put in place a centrally controlled electric system in markets which will be switched off at the end of each day and put on at the beginning of the next. This way, fires caused by high voltage will be minimized if not stopped.
Just as the Anambra State government has instituted a formidable security machinery in the state to make it safe for everybody, we urge the government to in the same vein come out with a fool proof strategy for preventing fires in markets and other public places. This will complement whatever efforts are made by the citizenry.
Losing one's belongings or goods to fires is indeed an experience no one prays for. This is why serious though should be given to ways of stopping them.
But while we await measures towards eliminating or curtailing this phenomenon, we commiserate with victims of all the fire incidents in the last yuletide and pray God to give them the fortitude to bear the loss of either their property or their loved ones.