Nairobi, Kenya: Nairobi residents and business premises are dangerously exposed to outbreaks of fire following revelations that none of the fire engines owned by the county government is working.
The Kenya National Fire Brigades Association (Kenfiba) secretary-general Mr Francis Liech, a fire fighter, said the machines broke down as a result of neglect.
“The city fire department has always received a raw deal from past regimes; regular maintenance has been a big issue. And, as we speak, not a single fire engine is up and running.”
The fire at Herufi House on Harambee Avenue on Thursday exposed the sorry state of affairs at the department. Private fire fighters and the National Youth Service were called to rescue occupants in the building that houses the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics offices.
No fire engine from City Hall was at the scene.
Trouble at the department dates back to 2009 when fire engines valued at over Sh80 million were auctioned off because the City Council could not pay Sh70,000 repair charges. The engines had been repaired at a garage in Industrial Area.
According to documents seen by the Sunday Nation, three fire engines, one from the fire headquarters, a Renault CBH 340, was auctioned after the council failed to settle a bill of Sh7,400.
The second engine, a Renault Midlum 210 water tanker based at the Ruaraka substation, was also sold for failure to settle Sh29,660 and replace the siren system.
Another Renault Midlum 210, based at the Enterprise Road substation, went the same way because of an outstanding Sh29,660 bill. A Land-Rover TDI 110 based at the headquarters was also offloaded for the paltry sum of Sh9,120.
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero admitted this sad state of affairs. “It is unfortunate that a number of equipment are broken down. But we have ordered new equipment, and the county government will soon be receiving donations from various well-wishers,” he said.
He outlined a number of measures he was instituting to improve fire emergency response services.
“Under the Nairobi Metropolitan services improvement project, we are reviving some Belgian tenders that ought to have brought four fire engines to City Hall. The tenders were floated during the days of mayors here but abandoned midway.”
In the interim, he said City Hall had partnered with private firms like G4S and KK to help put out any fires.
Together with the expected donation of three engines from a UK-based company, Mr Kidero said Nairobi will have 10 fire engines by the end of the year.
The governor also revealed that the fire department would now operate directly under his office so that he could be directly in charge of disaster response in the city.
“I want to coordinate operations myself. I’ll see to it that things are streamlined.”
Mr Joseph Maina, a firefighter, said they were so poorly prepared he could only pray that no fires broke out. And their morale was further dented by lack of wages.
“We are yet to be paid our June salary. And with all the dangers involved, we are only paid a risk allowance of Sh500,” he said....(Source)