The Government of Liberia is beset by serious liquidity crisis that has crippled its ability to pay salaries. Amid the corresponding economic pinch and grinding poverty characterized by citizens’ outcry, this country also faces another security risk: Liberians and foreign residents here risk losing their lives and properties, if there were fire outbreaks anywhere in the country.
The Liberia National Fire Service or LNFS, the government institution that is responsible to protect citizens from fire outbreaks is near non-functional without a single fire truck to protect the country’s 4.5 million people. The LNFS lost its only functional fire truck to angry crowd about two months ago in “Black Gina” community, Jacob’s Town in Paynesville. Aggrieved residents vandalized the fire truck on grounds that it allegedly failed to rescue a burning house in the community.
But long before this unfortunate incident, the country Fire Service had been found wanting in terms of adequate logistics and trained personnel to respond to fire outbreaks. Past administrations at the institution and even the current leadership at the LNFS had, and continue to cry for support to enable the entity performs its statutory functions.
Today, the LNFS virtually lies in ruins due to lack of attention or political will, if you may, from relevant authorities. Its rather demoralized staff still reports to work as usual, but sits around at the premises with no tools to work with. Meantime unsuspecting Liberians and the public generally go about their normal businesses not seemingly knowing when a fire outbreak could occur, and if it did, whether the Fire Service has capacity to respond.
Authorities here need to understand that issues of fire disaster in Liberia is not only unique to homes and private business centers, but industrial areas as well, which has to do with investors’ confidence.
This is where we draw attention of the Government of Liberia thru the Ministry of Justice under which the LNFS operates as part of the national security apparatus. Without a functionally up to date, Fire Service to assure both citizens and foreign residents, including investors, the economy would not expand.
President George Manneh Weah and his officials continue to cry out for foreign investors to boost the economy. But investors need security and the issue of fire is a security matter that should not be relegated. Security is not just about lining up men and women armed to the teeth at various borders and ports of entry in the country.
Investors also want assurance that assets brought here would be safe from fire and other disasters, if there were such incidents. Imagine an entire factory gutted by fire and the LNFS is unable to move in because it lacks capacity. Hundreds of homes and lives have been lost in the country, as a result of fire outbreaks.
If we want investors to come to Liberia to invest, these are some of the issues that government needs to address as urgent imperatives. The Ministry of Justice cannot continue to ignore one of its key arms such as the LNFS and brags about being in control of security issues across the country.
Without a fully equipped and functional National Fire Service, Liberia is faced with serious security issue that should claim immediate attention of the Weah administration to save this country from future national catastrophe.