What Is Wrong With the Lagos State Fire Service?

November 3, 2022

On October 23, 2022, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu bragged on Twitter about the delivery of 62 brand-new fire trucks and support vehicles for the Lagos State Fire Department. The vehicles paraded the streets of Lagos like happy children would display their Christmas clothes to their friends and haters. 

But when a fire started burning a building under construction in the heart of Victoria Island in Lagos one week later, those trucks didn’t arrive fast enough to stop it. 30 minutes after the fire started, an eyewitness reported there were no firefighters on the scene to help. 

If you were on Adeola Odeku Street between the hours of 10 am and 12 pm on November 1, 2022, a happy new month greeting would’ve been the last thing on your mind. The fire claimed the life of one man and injured nine other people. 

Not to mention that in the official public report of the incident, the Lagos State Fire Service conveniently didn’t state the time the fire service arrived at the scene. 

The incident sparked conversations about the operations of the fire service in the state and what rules guide them. How do the firefighters compare to operations of other countries and how can citizens help?

What’s missing from Nigeria’s fire service laws?

Rather than finding evidence of regulations, we found a whole lot of laws that the Lagos State Fire Service conveniently left out of the books. Here are a few of them:

The absence of proper safety equipment

Nowhere in the Lagos State Fire Service Law does it state that firefighters should wear the proper safety gear at all times. There’s not even a penalty, so even if a firefighter feels like wearing agbada and heels to quench fires, they’re more than free.

The absence of ETA reports

In the same document, there are no laws compelling firefighters to submit an estimated time of arrival report. So, if Lagos firefighters decide to use African time to show up to emergencies, no one is really checking them because they’re probably not documenting it. 

What are the fire laws for other countries?

 It shouldn’t come as a surprise to find out the United Kingdom and the United States of America have more efficient response times and rules on safety gear than Nigeria. 

In America, not wearing your safety gear on duty attracts some serious fines. A town in Maine was fined $22,000 just because their firefighters lacked equipment and were poorly trained. In the UK, failure to follow fire safety regulations like protective wear could result in unlimited fines.

Also, response times to fire incidents in the US and UK have never been more than 7 minutes and 5 minutes respectively. We don’t even know that Nigeria has a response time target for firefighters.

What can you do when there’s a fire outbreak?

Putting out an out-of-control fire is a collaborative process and isn’t a job for firefighters alone. There are many ways for citizens to help in their own ways:

  • Know your building’s evacuation plan: Most buildings usually have a fire exit sign. Don’t just pass it by, memorise and use that exit when there’s a fire. 
  • For buildings without precautions, always know all the available exits and use your two legs when there’s trouble.
  • Always try to know the location of fire extinguishers or buy one. E get why.
  • It’s important to call emergency numbers as quickly as possible because firefighters won’t know there’s a fire unless someone calls them. You can call 08033235891 for the Lagos State Fire Service or 112 for the Federal Fire Service.

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