ON DECEMBER 30, 2018, an inferno that razed the mortuary section of the general hospital in Enugwu-Ukwu, Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State, burnt over 100 corpses beyond recognition.
Before the ghoulish incident, there had been pockets of fire disasters that torched offices and homes ricocheting up to about 176 accounts in 2016, 117 in 2017 and nearly less than the figure in 2018, according to unconfirmed reports.
While property worth over N607 million was lost to these fire incidents in 2016 with 2017 gutting properties valued at nearly N970 million, for instance, the estimation may ultimately prove just a tip of an iceberg in what has come to be known as annual loss.
ALTHOUGH looking at the dynamic from the foregoing indices, there seems to be an arithmetical retrogression, it does not however splash any gloss to what everyone knows as avoidable loss.
LIKE the Enugwu-Ukwu incident and others before it, many factors were held responsible, from those glaringly probable to others so implausible that they smack superstition. For instance, an account of the morgue fire traced it to a “rage of the spirits” that calls for libation – if recurrence may be averted.
But this does not obfuscate the perennial ‘pathogens’ of bush burning, indiscriminate discharge of cigarette stubs and ash trays, exposure of inflammables to extreme heat, among others.
ATIMES popular perchance for clearing bushes surrounding homes and offices with fire and hunters’ predilection for smoking rodents and other ‘bushmeat’ varieties from holes speak to this vicious yearly cycle.
There are other times when pastoral ‘hustling’ by nomadic herdsmen, who set vegetation on fire to stampede it into recreating new greenery for grazing livestock, result in bush fires that spiral to destruction of homes, markets, farmlands and stalls.
An incident in not too distant past nearly burnt an entire village until an alarm was raised for women to start fetching water en masse from a nearby stream with which the inferno that conflagrated from a burning bush was quelled.
ALSO, weather variation in dry and harmattan seasons tips the scale of fire incidents at this time. Some feisty yuletide escapades of exuberant youths, who are often egged on by those who supposedly should know better, through bonfires and fire crackers bring another footnote.
YET apart from gutting houses, none should trivialise effects of bush burning on soil texture through oxidation and leeching of soil liming – which are laser agents of soil erosion and its consequences on the environment.
But the bottom line is that whenever an inferno – probably spilling over from a burning bush nearby – guts the next office, private residence or market, the corollary will be denominated in heavy material loss. This increases the burden of preventing cases of fire incidents that usually occur during this period.
THAT’S why we are ringing the alarm bell louder than ever this time around – giving that harmattan is lurking around the corner and yuletide just less than one month.
Only pro-active steps against personal and communal carelessness by all stakeholders have better potentials of making the season fire-free as year 2020 lines up next in calendar.
GOVERNMENT is already in the business of creating awareness by mounting intensive round-the-clock sensitisation campaign to let the people remember that the pangs of environmental and economic destructions reel long after the aroma of bush meat delicacies, for which some still resort to bush burning had vanished.
BUT we urge appropriate authorities to step up this campaign to bring its desired goal up to speed.
PERHAPS, this is why Deputy Director of Administration and Strategy of Anambra Fire Service, Innocent Mbonu, recently restated government’s commitment to warning residents against indiscriminate bush burning, especially during the harmattan.
ACCORDING to him, Gov. Willie Obiano has procured three fire trucks to complement the 10 previously in fleet and employed 100 more fire fighters to beef up operations of Anambra Fire Service.
WHILE calling for an even distribution of these anti-fire trucks among the new fire stations currently under construction at Umunze, Otuocha, Nnewi, Onitsha and Agulu, we also appeal to the public to alert the seven fully equipped and functional fire stations in Anambra State with any emergency that arises at any time.
SIMILARLY, people should show friendliness with fire fighters and officers rather than mob them on arriving at disaster scenes even as house and business owners monitor electrical appliances in their buildings, particularly by switching them off when not in use.
LAW enforcement agents, traditional rulers and presidents-general of town unions in all the 179 communities as well as vigilante operatives also have roles to play too.
That’s why they should be engaged at both formal and informal levels to be on the look-out for fire causing agents in their immediate vicinities, before it gets out of hand. Meanwhile, every individual must work towards protecting his or her life.