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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs