The Epitome of a Failed Government: With 2 Functioning Fire Trucks and 2 Fire Hydrants, Residents of Freetown Are Left to Fight Fire With Bare Hands
For residents in the Shell Community in the eastern part of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Christmas did not come with joy. Instead the community woke up this morning to a series of explosions caused by fire in a Shell gas station. According to reports, following oil trails from the explosion, fire spread quickly via drainages and engulfed nearby homes and shops. The cause of the fire as well as the nature and number of casualties still remain unknown. Fire accidents are common occurrences all over the world. In most countries, a successful containment of a fire is a mere function of how timely the fired department is alerted. In Sierra Leone, it is a different story.
A Freetown-based BBC Correspondent, Umaru Fofana tells it all in his report posted on Facebook this morning which reads: “Fire Force have given up on the fire, at least for the time being. There are only two fire hydrants in the whole of Freetown and environs. And they are both situated in the west of town with the second in the far west (Goderich). Water lasts for about 10 minutes in any of the two functional fire engines at the Fore Force HQ. The fire fighters don’t have protective clothing and are not on a health insurance.”
The deplorable state of the fire department in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown which is inhabited by more than 1.2 million is no secret. Over the last several months, Alhaji Saccoh, a Sierra Leonean-born fire fighter based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has been engaged in an international media campaign to draw attention to the state of the fire department and solicit supplies for them. In fact, Saccoh arrived in Freetown a couple of weeks ago to deliver the supplies he collected. Before Saccoh’s donations arrived, fire fighters did not even have protective clothing.
But not even Saccoh’s campaign could send a wakeup call to the government of Sierra Leone. While basic life-saving necessities like an equipped fire department is neglected, the government spent $12 million this year on buses in a questionable procurement scheme. Apart from a photo-op and an alleged hidden agenda of ferrying ruling party supporters across the country during political campaigns, how else can the government justify buying 100 buses while the nation’s capital can only boast of two functioning fire trucks? How can the government explain spending $10,000 per delegate to bring a an unprecedented 50-man delegation to the United Nations General Assembly meeting earlier this year when the nation’s capital can boast of only two functioning fire hydrants?
It is time that the energy and resources being spent on the current destructive “More Time” campaign be used to join Alhaji Saccoh in his campaign to save Sierra Leone’s untrained, dilapidated, ill-equipped, and ignored fire department. The government has no valid excuse for the current state of the country’s fire department.