News / Africa

Fighting Fire in Nairobi with Just One Fire Engine

Fighting Fire in Nairobi with Just One Fire Enginei
July 12, 2013 7:59 PM
The growing population of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, seems to be outpacing the capacity of the city’s emergency services. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow reports on the city’s overstretched fire department, and the steps residents are taking to fend for themselves.
Gabe Joselow
The growing population of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, seems to be outpacing the capacity of the city’s emergency services.  The city’s fire department is overstretched, and residents are taking steps to fend for themselves.
When houses burn in the Blue Estate neighborhood of Nairobi, anyone can become a firefighter.
There is no fire station, and there are no hydrants.  So residents battle the blaze with buckets of water and desperate determination.
And even though the fire department was called in this case, the firefighters were unable to get through the narrow, crowded streets.
That’s just the way it is in Nairobi’s slums, according to Blue Estate resident Muriuki Wangechi Munyao.
“Access was the problem. They reached with two cars, in fact they reached early before the second room started burning, but they didn’t know how they would get inside," he said. "So we cannot say it is anyone’s fault, but it is poverty that has made things worse.”
To prevent future tragedy, the city is revamping its fire department.
The central station - built in 1906 - has fallen behind the times, and remains drastically understaffed and underequipped. At the moment, Nairboi only has one working fire engine - this one - it holds about 10,000 liters of water, which is good enough to fight a fire for about seven minutes.
But the governor has promised 10 more trucks by the end of the year, and firefighters are hoping that will make a big difference.
Another problem is staff. The fire department has about 105 firefighters for a city of four million, handling at least 30 calls a week - another deficiency the county has promised to improve.
So while they wait for the governor to fulfill his promise, Chief Fire Officer Brian Kisali says the department is training local brigades so citizens can fight fires on their own.
“So really these are our brothers and sisters and we do assist them even though accessibility is a challenge," he said. "We’ve trained quite a number of teams because prevention is better than cure.”
Class is in session in Kibera, where George Madenyi passes on the training he was given by the Nairobi fire department.
He says residents here were put to the test last month, when a fire broke out at a local community center.

“It really helped a lot because like at that scene there, we were rescuing the kids, people were afraid a lot of people didn’t want to get near the fire and you know when you don’t want to get near the fire, no one will help, and when no one will help it will get worse, so I can say we really gained something out of the training," he said.
The residents are diligent about practicing the drills, knowing full well that when the next fire comes, their lives will be in their own hands.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs