In the colonial days right through when Ghana attained independence in 1957, we in the Gold Coast learnt in school how inhabitants of British cities, especially London, were battling with fire outbreaks in residential areas as well as industrial set ups. The fires affected the structures involved as well as human beings some of whom were burnt to death, while many more got injured in the fires.

I still have in mind the songs we sang about fires in London thus ‘London is burning, London is burning, look under look under, fire fire, fire fire, pour water pour water’. In spite of the improvement in fire safety measures in Britain over the years, the fire outbreaks continue with more frightening ferocity. In 2012-2013 alone the fire and Rescue Authorities recorded more than 192,000 fires in Britain with the current situation getting worse. On June 14, 2017, fire broke out at a tower in London leaving 74 people injured and 12 dead. The number of the dead and injured have since increased.

At least 40 fire engines, 20 ambulance crews and more than 200 firefighters were dispatched by the London Fire Brigade in an effort to minimize loss of life and property. Firemen spokeswoman revealed that she has never seen that kind of fire in her entire career. Due to fire safety fears, the British authorities have evacuated more than 800 inhabitants living in buildings within the vicinity where the disaster occurred. Some of these people are being housed in hotels and some hostels.

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The reason? Most of the buildings in Grenfell Estates area were detected to have been built with materials prone to fires. If Britain. our colonial masters, and a   developed nation, is battling with fire outbreaks all these years what lessons can we draw from their experience to avert fires in our emerging high rise buildings, factories and residential areas.? Mr. Abdul Aziz Muniru, MP for Akan Constituency, in a statement to parliament expressed worried so he drew the attention of Ghana’s     parliament to what has happened to the 24 story tower in London and asked parliament to deliberate on it. The Speaker Professor Mike Occqaye was all for action to be taken to avert a similar disaster in Ghana saying we should use the right firefighting equipment and to embark on fire prevention education to deal with the issue.

He is right because as Ghana is growing there are high rise buildings springing up in our cities and urban areas that include the job 600 which houses parliamentarians. Our markets, offices and radio stations can also catch fire as happened to Ghana Broadcasting Corporation stores building in Accra recently. We must therefore put our house in order by our engineers allowing only the right materials to be used in putting up buildings especially the high rise ones. We must set up a Public Safety Office to be equipped with ways of detecting and preventing fire outbreaks working with Ghana Fire Service and National Disaster Management Organization [NADMO].

We should empower our teachers in basic schools to sensitize pupils on how to detect and deal with signs of fires emanating from gas and electricity and petrol.  As suggested by Hon Muniru, fire safety audit must be carried out in all ministries departments and residential areas including patrol, gas stations and factories with the view to detecting problems with them.

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Source: Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai