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Reports on the headlines about fires and the destruction they leave in their wake are on the increase. One such recent report read “Property worth Billions of shillings was destroyed after a fire that started at a beach hotel on Tuesday evening spread to 26 private houses and villas. The fire is said to have broken out at around 5.30pm. Fanned by a strong breeze, it spread and caused damage over a two-kilometer radius.

The cause of the fire has yet to be established. Although there were no injuries reported, the blaze left in its wake immense destruction of property. According to an assessment by the Security Committee, 83 cottages, two water reservoirs, and three cars were razed. Residents and owners expressed shock and disbelief of how the fire could spread from one house to another so fast.

Although the fire fighters arrived about 30 minutes after they were called, they were overpowered by the blaze, and they ran out of water after engaging the fire for 20 minutes.

Nothing was salvaged from the cottages, and most visitors residing in the cottages lost everything including travelling documents. The crowds that gathered outside the hotel took advantage of the confusion and stole whatever items not damaged by the fire”.

Such reports are becoming part of daily reading. The major issues of concern emerging from such incidences is that the occurrences of fires are on the increase while the ability to fight them is on the decline or in some cases nonexistent.

A fire may occur in our homes, business premises or offices at any time. Saving of lives and property depends on our knowledge of what to do, what to have and how to act in the event of a fire occurrence.

Fire defined

Scientists have defined fire as the rapid oxidation of a material in an exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. The flame is the visible portion of the fire and depending on the substances alight, and any impurities present, the color of the flame and the fire's intensity will be different. Fire in its most common form can cause physical damage through burning.

The basic fact about fire is that we experience them every day, but we are least prepared to deal with fire incidences.  The usual causes of fire are smoking, faulty electrical wiring, power surges, smoking, arson, accidents, bush fires, and lighting.

Most fires start in our absence and when they occur, they leave in their wake bodily injuries, loss of life, psychological trauma, property damage, loss of earnings, loss of clients to competitors, and redundancy of employees just to name a few.

Positive and negative Aspects of Fire:

Fire is an important process and has affected the ecological systems across the globe positively. It has been used by humans for cooking, generating heat, signaling, and propulsion purposes ever since man discovered it in the stone age. Fire was at the basis of industrialization; and the positive effects of fire include stimulating growth and maintaining various ecological systems. Without fire, nobody knows what kind of abyss the human race would be in.

Fire if left loose can cause serious damage not only to property but to the environment as well. Bush fires have devastated huge chunks of forests and property rendering both animals and humans homeless. Other negative effects of fire include water contamination, soil erosion, atmospheric pollution and hazard to life and property.

Fighting Fires

People present around a fire occurrence would obviously wish to put out the fire and restrict the resultant property damage. However, they usually encounter difficulties in the process. Such difficulties may include:

  • Lack of adequate firefighting appliances
  • Poorly maintained firefighting appliances
  • Lack of knowledge on use of firefighting equipment
  • Safety concerns when getting close to fight the fire due to smoke
  • Delay in fire detection
  • The size of fire
  • Inexperience in firefighting
  • Use of wrong appliances/extinguishers to fight the fire, thus increasing the risk of injury
  • Lack of water
  • Delayed response by fire emergency services
  • Traffic congestion
  • Inaccessibility to the site of fire
  • Ignoring the fire alarms when sounded and
  • Panic


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8th Floor, ZEP-RE Place,
Longonot Road, Upper Hill,
P.O Box 42769-00100,
Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone: +254-020 4973000/2738221

Cocody Canebiere, Cocody,
08 BP 3791 Abidjan 08,
Côte d’Ivoire,
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No. 54, Plot No. 356184,
Base Park (Diamond Park), Alick Nkhata Rd
P. O. Box 36966
Lusaka, Zambia
Telephone: +260 211 252586

16th Floor -North Wing, Joina City
Cnr Jason Moyo and Inez Terrace
Harare, Zimbabwe
Telephone: +263 4 777 929/932

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P. O. Box 3224
Khartoum, Sudan
Telephone: +249 183 799357/8/9

Kampala, Uganda
Lourdel Towers, 5th Floor
Nakasero Kampala

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
UNDP Regional Services Centre, Ground Floor
Bole Olympia Roundabout behind Deluxe Furniture,
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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