By Ozo Ray
The Director and Chief Fire Officer of the Anambra State Fire Service, Engr. Martin Onyedikachukwu Agbili, has announced the introduction of community fire fighting by the State Fire Service.
He said it was a new initiative which the fire agency developed because of the forthcoming dry season.
Speaking at the state headquarters, Awka last Tuesday, Agbili said that the agency had been clamouring for an increase in the personnel of the state fire service, but according to him, government seemed to dilly dally in the recruitment of new fire fighters to fill vacancies occasioned by retirements from the service. This, he explained, necessitated the introduction of community fire fighting.
He explained that community fire fighting was simply a situation where communities assist fire fighters in fire fighting, sensitization and prevention within the communities in Anambra State.
To actualise the objectives of the initiative, the State Fire Chief disclosed that the agency would enroll what he called community fire wardens when the fire service would train on preliminary fire fighting and fire safety management so that whenever there were fire outbreaks in the communities, the fire wardens would be the first responders to hold on for fire fighters before they arrived the scene.
He said the agency also planned to partner the Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU) to ensure the success and realization of the initiative, explaining that why the agency deemed it necessary to partner community leaders, was for the agency to leverage 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 educate the communities in the need to cut down bushes and grasses near their houses. He pointed out that dry season fire outbreaks mostly resulted from bush fires which attacked residential homes if not controlled.
According to him, the agency would continue to provide moral and physical training for the community fire wardens until the state government deemed it fit to come up with full employment of fire fighters for the state fire service, stressing 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 the school curriculum and that the agency would equally champion a legislation on the need to have safety clubs in schools where fire safety management would be taught.
He said the agency was bedevilled by some challenges that required government's urgent intervention, noting that there was an urgent need to revalidate all that was in the state fire service for optimum service delivery ahead of the dry season.
He said that though some approvals had been made, the agency was yet to access funds for their implementation.
Agbili gave 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 fires.
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 awaited pronouncements and actual implementation, even as he stated that there seemed to be no specific insurance cover for fire fighters in Anambra state.