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Bulawayo Fire Brigade struggles to fight fires

by Staff reporter
06 Nov 2023 at 04:51hrs | Views
The Bulawayo Fire Brigade has had to adapt to water shortages and a shortage of functional fire engines. Among the city's 18 fire engines, only four are operational, leaving each of the four fire stations (Famona, Nkulumane, Mpopoma, and North End) with just one fire engine to serve its area. If multiple fires erupt simultaneously, some properties may go unattended by the fire service.

Despite these challenges, Mr. Linos Phiri, the chief fire officer of Bulawayo City, assured that his department is working diligently to protect the city from fires, floods, and road accidents. He addressed rumors of fire brigade teams arriving at fire scenes with empty water tanks, stating that it is impossible for them to leave the station without essential equipment. Teams inspect their equipment, replenish water, and ensure the truck is in proper working condition before responding to a fire. In the rare event that water runs out before a fire is fully extinguished, a backup truck is called or the team connects to the nearest hydrant for more water.

Bulawayo has long grappled with water shortages, which poses challenges for an essential emergency services department like the fire brigade. Mr. Phiri acknowledged the need for innovative solutions, explaining that their fire engines have a carrying capacity of 1,800 liters, which may not be sufficient to extinguish large fires. To address this, they send a 9,000-liter bowser as backup. In the past, the city had functional water hydrants throughout the area, allowing fire teams to connect to hydrants if the fire engine's water supply ran out.

The impact of climate change has spurred local authorities and countries to invest in firefighting capabilities as temperatures continue to rise. Mr. Phiri noted that while the city requires a staff complement of 300 firefighters for optimal function, the current numbers fall significantly short of that figure. Experienced firefighters are leaving, leaving the department with mostly junior firefighters and trainees. Despite the challenges, the Nkulumane fire station is operational, albeit at a reduced level.

The city is set to receive four new fire engines this month, in addition to the four already in operation, thanks to the efforts of the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa. In August, President Mnangagwa inaugurated 23 firefighting trucks out of a total of 133 acquired from Belarus, which will be distributed to all 92 local authorities.

The fire brigade not only contends with water shortages and few operational fire engines but also battles vandalism of fire hydrants, especially in the western areas. Some fire hydrants have been stolen for their scrap value, making firefighting operations more challenging. To combat prank calls, the fire department has launched educational campaigns in schools to teach children about the dangers of making such calls, emphasizing the importance of preserving resources and protecting firefighters.

The head of the fire department also stressed the importance of having functional fire extinguishers in homes.

Source - The Chronicle