Are Kenyans ever prepared to fight fires?

We are quick to criticise firefighters, but few establishments have the infrastructure to battle fires.

Many years ago, the Nairobi City Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer made known the duties of the firemen. Many city residents had always called it out, blaming it when fires broke out and could not be contained.  

One of the questions the residents used to ask is why the firefighters always ran out of water. In the process, some residents suggested that they should be fetching water from the effluent-filled rivers in Nairobi. After all, even dirty water can put out a fire.

All these questions exposed the ignorance of residents when it comes to the work of the fire brigade, and to a larger extent, fire safety.

True, dirty water can put out a fire, but the water bowsers can be used during an emergency to supply clean water, thus they should not be used to carry dirty water.

Also, while putting out a fire, firefighters are supposed to be saving lives, not causing more damage. Dirty water can be more harmful to the victims who may have suffered burns.

As for carrying insufficient water, it was said that the water bowsers are more of a first aid, but they are supposed to be connected to water hydrants at the scene of the fire.

All these explanations came to mind when Ofafa Jericho High School caught fire last week, just a few days after another school in Western caught fire. As has always been the case when there is a fire in schools or other establishments, the firefighters were called out.

To be fair, some of the places where fires break out are not easily accessible, and that factor is ignored when the blame game starts. Also, many establishments do not have water hydrants or any type of basic fire-fighting equipment that can be deployed before the firefighters arrive. One of the most important things the Chief Fire Officer explained those many years ago is that it is their duty to investigate the causes of fires, and come up with measures to prevent future fire outbreaks. But do they­­?