15 - 17 October 2024 | SARIT CENTRE, NAIROBI, KENYA

Fire Extinguishing in Kenya versus the Rest of the World

POSTED: 14th Oct

It is said that the forest’s greatest fear is fire. Once it starts burning, the fire has no control and might consume an entire jungle and everything in it. This demonstrates how intense fire is towards not only the forests but also buildings and bridges, including the strongest structures that we might think of. It is therefore important for every country to have an adequate level of preparedness for such fire incidences since these happen everywhere. Even though it is not only Kenya that is faced with challenges in addressing fire incidences, we still have a long way to go as compared to some countries. As we compare Kenya’s fire-extinguishing practices with those of the United States, we shall see some of the areas that need improvement.

One major rule of a firefighter is that they must be on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and be able to respond quickly to a call. In Kenya, however, many fire incidences have been faced with delays in response by fire extinguishers, resulting in great damage. For instance, year 2009 Nakumatt Downtown (a supermarket in Nairobi then) was burned down by fires that resulted from a generator, claiming more than twenty-five lives plus more than forty missing people. Ironically, the supermarket was situated a few meters away from Nairobi’s public firefighters, who only responded when the fires were blazing hot, causing a delay in putting them off.

In the United States, the fire extinguishing department is usually on standby and, once a report is made, everything else set aside. They respond to incidents at any time of the day. Moreover, the department has done an adequate survey of fire incidents and is aware of the most likely times that it happens.

In addition, Kenya’s fire extinguishing department may not have all the resources and equipment required for addressing fire incidents. For instance, the fires that happened in the Langata area in 2018 got worse and even took many hours to extinguish due to lack of enough water. Also, the distance between the source of water, where the brigade went to fetch it, and the place of the fire incident was quite long. This resulted in extensive property damage and the loss of life. At times, fires may be intense and require increased manpower in terms of the number of responders and modern equipment for putting out the fire.

In fierce fires, the United States even uses helicopters to sprinkle water in places that are inaccessible via normal means. They have numerous fire extinguishing vehicles as well as a big brigade that makes work faster and more efficient. Their other machines are also up-to-date and have enough team players for the work.

It is not only Kenya that is affected by preparedness issues in the fire-distinguishing sector. Some of the developing countries are too, and some of the developed ones may face the problem from time to time. For instance, a fire incident occurred in China and the brigade used the wrong fire extinguisher, which would have made the situation more dangerous. Moreover, a case of a faulty fire extinguisher happened in a library in China, which poisoned several people, although they were treated and recovered.

This issue of addressing fire emergencies is very important. Being unable to address fire incidents adequately is a great risk that Kenya and all wanting countries need to resolve. Just like other emergencies like floods and economic crises, among others, are being handled, fire emergencies should also be considered. With the right equipment, manpower, and adequate training, as well as the construction of more fire stations in different locations, Kenya would be ready to fight this battle efficiently.

Article was written by

SML Editorial Team

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