Police have called upon the general public to always ensure minimum safety standards even as figures show a decrease in fire incidents by 40 per cent since the turn of the year compared to the same period last year.
According to the Commanding Officer for the Rwanda National Police (RNP) Fire and Rescue Brigade, Assistant Commissioner of Police Jean Baptiste Seminega, the decrease is due to awareness campaigns that the police embarked on educating people on “safety standards.”
Last year, the fire and rescue unit trained over 20000 members of the public in firefighting and prevention and inspected over 1, 200 public and private facilities.
“In May, this year, for example, we recorded 15 incidents; in June and July, we recorded a combined 14 incidents. The decline is not what we are looking at… we need to ensure that no incident happens at all, and that starts from an individual responsibility at home, school and owners of facilities, by taking all necessary safety measures,” ACP Seminega said.
Most fire incidents investigated, he said, were caused by carelessness, short circuit due to poor or substandard electric installations, overloading the system, and unattended candles in homes.
He gave a reference to some cases of carelessness where people who use gas-cookers and forget to switch them off, which in some cases prompt a fire.
Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) specifies only insulated copper cables with a cross-section area between 1.5mm2 to 6mm2.
Substandard cables from the market or installed in some of the affected facilities are found to be having conductors made mainly of aluminum with a thin coating of copper material around the aluminum conductor, which are immune to short-circuit.
ACP Seminega pointed out that fires lead to enormous economic loss and sometimes loss of lives.
Between 2012 and 2014, property worth about Rwf5 billion, including buildings, was destroyed in fire incidents throughout the country.
“This loss prompted us to go back on the drawing board to identify and mitigate the causes, including public sensitisation, and acquiring hi-tech firefighting equipment that are in line with the level of development,” the CO said.
The department that started with two non-firefighting vehicles and 16 trained police officers in 2002, currently boosts close to 20 hi-tech firefighting trucks and other rescue equipment, and about 150 trained firefighters.
With firefighting trucks currently stationed at the regional level, plans are underway to acquire more trucks, which will be deployed at the district level.
“Most fire disasters are avoidable if people can be cautious, listen and follow guidelines provided by experts in dealing with potential causes,” he said, urging property owners to take precaution and acquire fire extinguishers for emergency situations before the arrival of professional firefighters.
As part of the response to fire, RNP and its stakeholders plan to put up water hydrants in strategic locations in different cities for easy access to water sources to put out fires.
He advised property owners to use professional and accredited electricians, use quality cables approved by the bureau of standards, and always be quick to call the police rescue unit, whenever fire breaks out for quick response.