News / Africa

Fighting Fire in Nairobi with Just One Fire Engine

Fighting Fire in Nairobi with Just One Fire Enginei
X
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

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs