Welcome to another edition of know your public institutions which seeks to create awareness on the nature and work of public institutions in the Gambia. This edition brings you an exclusive interview with the Gambia Fire and Rescue Services (GFRCS) Public Relation Officer Muhammed Drammeh on how to create awareness on Disaster prevention such as Fire as part of their roles and responsibilities.
Foroyaa: Can you tell us about Fire, its common causes and how to prevent it?
GFRS PRO: Over the past years the Gambia fire and rescue services have responded to many fire out breaks in the country and most fires are caused by:
FIRE is a chemical Reaction arising from of certain substances coming together in a equal proportion (eg heat, oxygen and fuel).
Fire kills, destroys properties and our natural environment which encourages drought. Therefore, it must be our collective responsibilities to put in mitigating factors in order to minimize it’s impact.
Triangle of combustion or fire.
- OXYGEN:- Air we breath in
- FUEL: – Any thing combustible either in solid, liquid or gaseous state.
- HEAT: – Ignition source such as open flame or hot surface.
: – If the mixture is too weak or too rich ignition cannot take place.
SOME COMMON CAUSES OF FIRE AND THEIR PREVENTION
1) CANDLE END: – Candles cause fire in our houses because we place them on combustible materials i.e. any that can burn example on wooden tables, chairs, radios, T.V, arm chair on the bed and near curtains etc. and without being attended to when the melted wax comes in contact with a combustible material plus oxygen can cause fire outbreak.
PREVENTION:- never place candles on wooden materials, plastic or near curtains and always place them on metals and away from curtains. To reduce the number of fire out breaks caused by candle we can now substitute the candle by this lamps to keep our houses save at all times.
2) INCENSE POT/FUMIGATION:- This is a process by which a lot of fire is put in a clay / metal pot in order to make the house smell good, but the way we use them caused fire out breaks which destroys our lives and properties. Some people place it under their beds, in a wardrobe, under hanged cloths etc.
PREVENTION :- Never place these pots with fire under your beds, in your wardrobes, or under hang cloths as this can cause fire in the house. The fire in the pot produces heat and once combustible materials are heated until ignition point they will burn and can cause a big loss. So to avoid pots causing fire we should use the one made out of clay with a cover and stop using old basins or metal ones as those can transfer heat. To crown it all we advice people to be using air fresheners, mosquito sprays, and even mosquito nets instead, to keep our homes and lives safe from fire disaster
3) CHIP PAN FIRES:- In recent years fire service has responded to many fire outbreaks as a result of someone cooking with oil, and leaves his/ her cooking place until the oil gets over heated and by the time he/she arrives and attempts to fry, the water drops from the chips will cause fire, to make it worst he/she will pour water in it not knowing that water is not applicable to all fires especially in the case of oily substances.
PREVENTION :- Never leave your cooking place, do not fill your frying pan up to three quarter full with oil. Should in case this happens never put water in the fire, use the cover of the pot cover it, close the gas or reduce heat and then bring the pot down from the fire.
4) CHILDREN PLAYING WITH MATCHES:- This is one of the most common fire out break both in rural and urban areas caused by children playing with matches, lighters or fireworks indoors. A child would like to light something, strike a match, enjoy the flame until it reaches his/her finger, burns it and he/she will then throw it and run away. This can result to the entire house being burnt down to ashes.
PREVENTION :- To prevent this type of fire from happening, parents should keep all sources of ignitions such as matches, lighters, fire works, gas bottles, etc away from the reach of children and should always tell them how dangerous they could be.
5) ELECTRICAL FIRES:- Some fires are caused by electricity in our houses due to poor wiring or the over loading of cables.
PREVENTION :- Look for a qualified electrician to wire your house, do not overload your appliances and always turn off all appliances when going to bed or leaving the office to prevent electrical short circuit which can cause fire.
6) GAS LEAKAGE:- Fire out breaks caused by gases are due to heavy leakage when someone unknowingly did not completely turn the gas off, and continues to leak or you place water or green tea “attaya” on the gas which will boil and the water spill on the gas burner, the flames may be out but still the gas will continue to leak out. So if this happens for a long time the room will then be surrounded by the gas and any form of spark or ignition may lead to the entire house to catch fire at once.
PREVENTION: – When using a gas never leave it unattended, always make sure that it is tightly turned off. Never ask children to start a gas or turn it off and never leave a gas bottle in your living room. Should incase this gas burner catches fire, do not get panic sock a towel or a blanket made up of cotton in water ,cover the gas head and turn it off tightly. If you smell a gas in your house open all doors and windows and do not use matches or lighters to look for a leak in the dark always use a touch light or light from your mobile.
What are the difficulties or challenges you encounter during fire fighting?
This is one of our greatest concerns, having people destroying our equipment, attacking fire fighters and even to the extent of some boys taking our equipment trying to fight fire which some times cause injuries or even death to youths. Years ago in Kanifing seven (7) young men lost their lives doing the same thing, which was a big shock to the entire country. To avoid such incidents the fire brigade is pleading with the general public that any time the fire fighters come to your area for fire fighting every one should leave the area and allow the professionals do their work effectively and efficiently. And we want people to see the fire fighters as their brothers and sisters whose job is to save their lives and properties but not their enemies.
Recently in one of your discussions with the Media you made mention that Fire outbreaks have reduced, does this apply to both the Urban and Rural Areas?
The rate of fire outbreaks has reduced throughout the country both the urban and rural areas. This is as a result of the fire service educating the people about fire safety and prevention. Because of the knowledge that majority of the people have about fire safety, it has helped to reduce the number of fire out in the country.
Did you sensitize the General Public on how to protect themselves on Fire outbreaks, and how do you normally go about it?
Yes we are sensitizing the public, since the year 2012 the Gambia fire and rescue services through the fire safety unit have been sensitizing the public on the common causes of fire and their prevention, evacuation procedures, how to communicate with the fire service if the need arises among other things. Every year the fire safety unit engages in sensitizing school children from lower basic, upper basic, senior secondary and even tertiary institutions. We organize community outreach programs where we meet people in their communities and sensitize them on fire prevention. We also conduct weekly talk shows on radio stations such as Kora Fm every Wednesday from 17:00 hrs to 18:00 hrs, Paradise FM twice every month on Thursdays from 15:00 hrs to 16:00 hrs, FMB radio in Brikama every Wednesday from 17:00 hrs to 18:00 hrs, West Coast twice every Thursday from 19:00 hrs to 20:00 hrs, Sen. FM the first and last Saturday of every month. In the provinces we have safety teams in each region who are doing the same thing in sensitizing the public in school radios and communities.
What help do you need from the General public in the implementation of your work?
We need the help of the general public in order to do our work effectively, because without their help it is going to be impossible for us to do our work successfully. We want the people to call the fire brigade immediately to avoid delay and loss of property, to leave the fire ground when the fire fighters arrive to do their work and to help us by giving accurate /correct direction and information relating to the incident.
What other form of support do you need from the government to make your work easy, effectively, efficiently?
The government has been very supportive to the Gambia Fire and Rescue Services in term of capacity building, equipment among others. Still we want the government to provide additional hydrants to make our work effective and efficient.
What recommendations have you for the General Public?
The Gambia fire services is here to render services to the people of the Gambia by sensitizing and training both at home and at work places. Therefore I strongly recommend factory owners, hotel managers, petrol station and even private residents to come to the fire service so that we can train them on fire safety and prevention at their respective places. Someone has taken the lead, Mr. Alagi Jagne of Kotu came to us to train his family how to prevent and escape harm in case of fire. So I wish everyone can emulate him.
: Can you tell us the importance of hydrants to your work?
Hydrants are equipment used by fire-fighters to get water from for fire fighting purpose. These hydrants are found in the communities we leave, but because we don’t know their function we do things that destroy them partly or permanently, either by burying then or turning it to a dumping place etc. Hydrants are very important to fire fighters because it serves as a backup. The vehicles we have are not mend for continuous fire fighting but they are starters. The vehicle is use for carrying fire-fighters and their equipment’s from their stations to the fire incident upon arrival the hydrant will then be used for continuous fire fighting. But because of the damages done to hydrants in the Gambia, fire-fighters can only spend a maximum of six (6) munities without a hydrant to back us up. When fire is very serious we use our biggest hose which last for two (2) munities ten second the water will finish without a hydrant to back us up. Fire-fighters drive for kilometre before locating a hydrant, this always create a confusion for the public but this is why we leave scene early but not that we come with half or empty tank. I therefore urged the general public to help the fire service to protect these hydrants in our communities for us to effectively and efficiently do our work in saving lives and properties. Because the lives we save may be yours.