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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid