How efforts to mitigate fire outbreaks are paying off

Rwanda National Police fire brigade at work in Kigali in 2015

On August 11, a house in Rebero, Kagugu Cell in Gikondo Sector caught fire, killing a set of twins.

On the same day, another residential house located in Indatwa Village of Rwezamenyo Sector in Nyarugenge District caught fire. In this incident, all the four children who were trapped inside the house were successfully rescued by the Rwanda National Police (RNP) Fire and Rescue Brigade (FRB) with the help from the residents.


According to police statistics, between January and July this year 105 fire incidents were recorded across the country, an 11 per cent drop compared to the same period last year.


Most fire outbreaks are recorded in Kigali.


At least 31 people were injured in addition to 16 fatalities.

The fires include those in houses – both residential and commercial – vehicles as well as wild fires, but the majority of the incidents are reported in residential facilities.

“We have invested a lot in preventive measures, including awareness and educating different groups of people on how to avert fires as well as acquiring hi-tech firefighting equipment. This has massively paid off,” said Assistant Commissioner of Police Jean Bosco Seminega, the Commanding Officer of the Fire and Rescue Brigade.

He said that the majority of the fire incidents stem from human errors or behaviours and poor electric installations.

“Domestic appliances such as heaters, iron, fridge, washing machines are handled carelessly. The same goes to overloading of extension cables with less capacity, but have to hold a TV and the whole sound system, the fridge, heater washing machine, among others. In such cases, there are higher chances of short circuit and the next minute the whole house will be in frames,” he said.

Police says it has trained more than 200, 000 people on fire prevention and how to use different traditional methods and firefighting gadgets.

“Together with other entities, we have inspected over 1, 200 public and private facilities mainly looking at the power installations where we come up with recommendations, especially on facilities with old or poor electric installations,” Seminega said.

Some fire incidents also stem from littered lit materials like cigarettes, charcoal burning, candles, leaking gas and petroleum products as well as poor wiring systems of vehicles and welding, he said.

All these causes are preventable, Seminega says, calling on owners of commercial buildings to acquire fire extinguishers, install fire alarm systems, fire and water hydrants and hose reel, sprinklers and para-lighting system installations.

According to the Prime Minister’s Instructions of  2014 on building safety regulations, all public buildings or other public facilities are required to  have a fire alarm system with an alarm bell on each floor, smoke detectors and sprinklers on each floor, a fire extinguisher at every 50 meters on each floor and a hose reel on each floor.

With over 150 firefighting police officers and the acquisition of more hi-tech firefighting trucks and other disaster response equipment, police says it has the capacity to respond within ten minutes.

Police has firefighting trucks and disaster response equipment in all provinces. It plans to introduce facilities in all the 30 districts across the country.

According to Eng. Jean d’Amour Rwunguko, the acting Engineer of the City of Kigali, there is a checklist for quality electrical materials as well as the electro-mechanical design that have to be presented and approved before issuing a construction permit for either a commercial or residential building.

“One of the conditions is the quality of cables, installing firefighting and fire detection gadgets and lightening roads. For residential, we also look at the wiring system, how cables are connected and the voltage capacity. We have engineers that follow up to ensure that these are fulfilled before a building is open to any business,” Rwunguko said.

He added that similar requirements apply to residential houses that are transformed into business facilities.

The Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) recommends the use of electrical cables of cross-section area between 1.5mm2 to 6mm2 and insulated conductors made of ‘Copper only.’

Jacques Munyandamutsa, the advisor to the Managing Director of Energy Utility Corporation Limited (EUCL), said that they work with the Police to arrest illegal or lay electricians.

“This is done to prevent any substandard installations and to prevent fire disasters that might lead to loss of lives and property,” Munyandamutsa said.


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