The Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS) has disclosed that of the 129 fire incidents across Monrovia from January to June this year, 12 deaths were recorded, while scores of residents left homeless and property worth thousands of dollars damaged.
Fire Service Director, G. Warsuwah Barvoul, made the disclosure last Friday during the graduation of 57 fire fighters, following six-month training in fire science and fire-fighting techniques.
The Liberia National Fire Service is faced with logistical challenges, including lack of adequate fire trucks, fire-fighting outfits and small gears (tools) as well as training facilities and outside exposure.
“The Liberia National Fire Service is face with the challenge of combating fire that has and continues to affect the lives and properties of residents in Monrovia and its environs especially those in the fire risk communities,” Barvoul noted.
He said statistics for January to June, 2012, revealed a total of 129 fire outbreaks, leaving 12 persons dead, scores of others homeless and properties destroyed.
Mr. Cecil Griffith, head of the Liberia National Enforcement Association, who spoke on behalf Justice Minister Christiana Tah, called for increased budgetary support to the fire service to enhance its efficiency to the public. He said without equipment and logistics, the bureau will not perform well during fire outbreaks; notwithstanding, it must also initiate its own programmes.
“To combat fire, the bureau is clothed with the responsibility for the issuance of preventive service law. Because there are lots of institutions both private and public that are without safety equipment,” Griffith noted.
The Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS) was enacted into law in 1963, but was originally founded as the Monrovia Municipal Fire Brigade. The first fire disaster took place in Monrovia in 1948, involving a frame house in the block where the St. Thomas Episcopal Church is now situated on Camp Johnson Road.
That incident led to the death of three persons, including a pregnant woman. An investigation conducted by law enforcement officers showed that the cause of the fire was due to an explosion from a container of gasoline which had been taken into the frame house by an occupant.
The second fire incident occurred at the premises of the old Liberia College now the University of Liberia on the same Camp Johnson Road adjoining the Clay Street which took the lives of two female occupants.
In 1944, when President William V. S Tubman visited Nigeria, he was opportune to have met with some Liberians and amongst them was a retired fire-fighter, Nathaniel Scere, who was trained in Great Britain but worked for the Nigerian government. In 1949, Tubman encouraged him to return home following which Nathaniel recruited the first 30 volunteers and trained them basic fire fighting.
Scere then became the first Fire Chief in Liberia under the Monrovia Municipal Brigade and was assisted by a Britain trained from Sierra Leonean, Anthony Lewis. Lewis was assisted by an American fire specialist, Leon Jordon, who was responsible for training.