Fire outbreaks: MPs urge public alert

As the nation waits for the findings of ongoing investigations into a recent spate of fire outbreaks in the country, lawmakers have urged the public to be vigilant so as to guard against similar incidents.
Firefighters try to contain a blaze at Quartier Mateus last week. John Mbanda.
Firefighters try to contain a blaze at Quartier Mateus last week. John Mbanda.

As the nation waits for the findings of ongoing investigations into a recent spate of fire outbreaks in the country, lawmakers have urged the public to be vigilant so as to guard against similar incidents.

Abbas Mukama, the Deputy  Speaker, Finance and Administration in the Chamber of Deputies, said all possible causes the public is speculating “cannot be rubbished” until investigations and complete. 

He urged patience to allow space to probe into the cause the fire outbreaks.

“The fires could be caused by faulty electric circuits or there could be negative forces behind them; no one knows,” the MP said.

“But I am sure the Police and other security organs are doing their job. We, the public, should wait for the findings.” 

He urged the public to be conscious of electric appliances they use. 

On Tuesday, a taskforce comprising Rwanda National Police (RNP), Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA), Rwanda Housing Authority and the Ministry of Infrastructure (Minifra) was formed to investigate the fires.

Four fires have gutted public and private building in just two weeks, including one that destroyed part of Rubavu Prison killing five people and injuring several others. 

Last week, fire burnt down a building in the city’s busy commercial area, Quartier Mateus, destroying property and merchandise worth millions of francs.

Another fire gutted a business complex in Nyabugogo that housed more than 10 businesses, including a lodge, wholesale and retail outlets on Monday.

Electrical appliances

However, MP Francesca Tengera Twikirize refused to associate the fire incidents with any anti-government forces, blaming the recent spate on “the poor quality electrical appliances.”

“We used to have such fire accidents in schools due to use of poor water heaters. Let everyone be fire-conscious in regard to the kind of appliances we use,” the MP said.

Julienne Uwacu, the deputy chairperson of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security, asked the public to avoid burning stuff. 

“The public should keep in mind that we are in a dry season, and no one should be involved in any burning, because this might cause a fire. Besides, burning anything is illegal,” said Uwacu.

The government last week issued new fire safety instructions that, among others, require buildings to have fire alarm system, smoke detectors and sprinklers on each floor.

Buildings must also install fire extinguishers, hose reels, closed circuit television cameras and lightning arresters. Property owners have up to six months to comply with the new regulations. 

The Minister for Internal Security, Sheikh Musa Fazil Harelimana, appearing before the parliamentary Standing Committee on Budget and Patrimony last month, said local governments had raised funds for Police to procure trucks for every province.

He said six large and 11 smaller fire trucks had been procured.

“By June 20, Police will visit the contracted company to see how many trucks have been built so far. During the same visit, the supplier and Police logistics department will discuss the shipping modalities,” he said.

Emmanuella Mukanyabyenda, a member of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Budget and Patrimony, urged the minister to expedite the procurement process.

“During Budget consultations, the minister for internal security told us that new fire fighting trucks had been bought, and would be in the country soon,”she said.

“I think this is the time we need them most. I, therefore, call upon the ministry to expedite the remaining logistics procedure so that we have those trucks in the country as soon as possible.” 

Police said in a statement this week that six fire engines will arrive before the end of the year, and that another 10 were expected early next year.

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