JUST last week, within 5 days, three popular markets in Lagos had major fire outbreaks. The week started with the fire that raged Balogun market on Lagos Island, then a fire claimed goods worth several millions in Computer Village before another fire closed the week on Friday night at Plank Market, Oke Afa in Ejigbo.
The magnitude of the fires and the proximity of their occurrence should cause concerns for Lagos residents. The night fire at the Oke-Afa Planks and Building Materials Market in the Ejigbo area of Lagos State on Friday, December 17, 2021, claimed no lives but razed down 294 shops, two residential bungalows, a market mosque, three storage tanks, and other structures. If the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency were not on hand to stop the spread of the fire, it was only a matter of minutes before a major disaster would have emerged from the flames.
Nigeria’s dry season is always ushered in by the harsh harmattan season between December and January. The annual harmattan appointment always coincides with the Christmas and New Year celebrations. Unfortunately, the harmattan also coincides with fire outbreaks which punctuate festivities with heartbreaking losses. But the increase in infernos during Christmas is no mere coincidence. The weather itself is a willing arsonist requiring just a little nudge to start burning property indiscriminately.
The yearly fires are encouraged by the dry winds and air, low humidity, and fluctuations in temperature brought by the harmattan. These dry conditions always support ignition of any scale, from a flicker of flame at the corner of a sawmill to formidable flames engulfing the whole workshop and neighbouring market space. Extremely dry conditions and low atmospheric humidity aid sparks from friction or even pressure. There are also the human factors of explosive fireworks used during the festive holidays and disposal of waste by burning refuse. There are a few ways to prevent costly fires this season.
We can never be too careful, a little more attention to temperatures and smell can help prevent a sudden fire outbreak. Many fire outbreaks begin from cooking left unattended to, poor handling of gas cylinders indoors, and home appliances such as electric irons left on for long periods when not in use. A flicker of fire on the pan while cooking, or a gas leak from the cylinder, or a spark from an electric device will easily trigger a big fire under dry harmattan conditions.
Lagosians also need to stop burning refuse. If there is a wrong season to burn waste, the harmattan season is the wrong season to burn refuse. Fires can easily go out of control with every dry surface readily made available as fuel for an inferno. It has already been explained how refuse burning is not eco-friendly, and how toxic pollutants are released into the environment, whether it’s harmattan or not, burning refuse at this point is just wrong and unsafe. Plus, petrol and kerosene ought to be safely stored away in cool places.
Finally, fireworks and knockouts or bangers cannot be exempt from their contributions to fires in Lagos in the past. The state government has already prohibited the use of these fireworks in markets, residential spaces, and special business districts. Of course, everyone cannot be forced to abstain from using fireworks this year. But if you must, please engage with fireworks in the safest way possible.