The frequency and severity of “Urban Market Fire” incidents in Nigeria is becoming worrisome. This article attempt to analyse the market fire disaster that has occurred this year and the measures that could be taken to forestall future occurrence.
Frequent fire disasters in crowded urban business and market structures have become a major concern to Nigerian urban planners. Urban renewal schemes are being initiated to minimize the occurrence of fire accidents and other associated problems by various levels of government in Nigeria.
The lack of adequate planning of many in many Nigerian cities and urban areas is creating safety challenges in managing the various centers of activities. The frequent occurrences of fire disasters across various cities in Nigeria
have become a major cause for concern for all stakeholders.
One of the most vulnerable clusters is the market places and commercial complexes. These disasters commonly referred to as ‘market fires’, which continue to destroy valuables worth billions of naira, have become a major burden on the Nigerian fragile economy and an harrowing experience Nigerians who labour to make ends meet amid the harsh conditions in the country.
Various urban renewal schemes have been initiated to minimize the occurrence of fire accidents and other associated problems by various levels of government in Nigeria. These efforts revolve around such programs like enlightenment campaigns, relocations of settlements areas and temporary closures of markets. Unfortunately many of these interventions only come after the disasters have occurred and in many cases with stiff resistance from the populace.
There is therefore the need to have a proactive approach to fire safety management integrated into overall management of our built environment in Nigeria.
The issues related to fire safety has become important issues in national discourse. A good number of fire incidents have been reported and documented by Nigeria news media, the fire service departments and the National Emergency Management Agency.
Just this year, Balogun Market in Lagos Island has twice being gutted by fire. The first incident occurred few days after the 2015 new year celebrations. The early morning inferno razed six buildings in the market, throwing traders into a state of confusion. Officials of the state and federal fire service and other agencies deployed to the scene had a hectic task gaining access to the building to put out the fire. Witnesses said at least 100 shops were affected by the fire in the then newly built Balogun Market.
In early September, 2015, another fire destroyed several shops at a section of the popular market.
On July 25, 2015, properties worth millions of naira were also destroyed when the popular sawmill at Ibereko in Badagry, Lagos was engulfed in fire. Although no life was lost in the incident, the inferno also razed parts of the St. Anthony Catholic church beside the plank market.
And only last week, goods worth millions of naira were destroyed by fire in Sabo market at Ikorodu. The inferno started around 1:25am. The cause of the fire could not be ascertained, but speculations were rife that it was caused by a spark from a chemical shop following restoration of light around midnight.
Also, Maiduguri which has been under invasion by Boko Haram insurgents and even men of the Nigerian military has not been left out of the fire craze this year. On May 15, 2015, while residents and motorists continued to grapple with a two-day 24- hour curfew, Thei Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM) market in the city was gutted by fire, destroying 14 shops with tens of thousands of handsets, laptops and other mobile phone accessories.
Other property destroyed in the inferno; included 41 other market stalls, located in the eastern flank of the GSM market on Shehu Laminu Way, Maiduguri.
According to Babagana Kashim, a shop owner and victim of the inferno, the fire incident commenced late in the night, the second day of curfew, when many of the shops owners were in their houses.
“The soldiers stationed near the GSM market and Post Office Areas, noticed a strange fire and plumes of thick smoke billowing into the sky, before they alerted Fire Servicemen from six organisations, including the military and University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) to put off the fire,” Kashim said.
This is indeed one tragedy too many
Fire deaths and property losses could be eliminated or at least be curbed if regulatory authority could identify potential fire zones in advance for effective management. This however will require enhancing the capacity of relevant regulatory institutions in evaluating the proneness of existing buildings to fire accidents using appropriate risk analysis tools.
Measures to reduce the severity of damages of fire accidents can be appropriately deployed and effective prevention
measures put in place if the potential of fire accident in any environment can be evaluated.
One of the tools of fire risk analysis is the checklist. The checklist involves the listing of attributes affecting risk
analysis and the identification of the presence or absence of specific fire accidents attributes. Other tools used for analysis are Fault Tree Analysis (FTA), Event Tree Analysis (ETA), Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA), Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA), Cause/ Effect Analysis, Functional Hazard Analysis (FHA), Human Error Analysis, and Software Hazard Analysis. The conventional approaches used for hazard or risk analysis are Energy Trace Barrier Analysis (ETBA), Sub-system Hazard Analysis (SSHA), System Hazard Analysis (SHA), Operating and Support Hazard Analysis (O&SHA), Hazard Analysis Schedules, Multi-criteria Evaluation (MCE),
Multi-criteria Decision Analysis (MCDS), System/ Integrated Hazard Analysis (SHA/IHA) and Failure Mode, Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA).
A major requirement for effective fire prediction is the use of easy to use tool that can perform well in the face of limited and imprecise data.
If the aforementioned are carried out judiciously by the agencies and people involved we would be seeing less fire incidents especially in urban markets.