By DAVID GEORGE
MANY incidents of fire continue to destroy lives and properties throughout Papua New Guinea within a matter of minutes every year.
It is always too late for the victims and neighbours to do anything once the fire spreads and especially when it is assisted by strong winds.
Depending on the condition of the structure on fire and materials used to build it, the property or building can be totally burnt to the grown in less than 15 minutes.
Years of hard work to secure a property, memories made in it, the achievements, important personal items, work documents, expensive white goods and other electrical appliances are consumed by raging fire, leaving victims traumatised with heartache and despair.
What remains at the scene of the fire is the burnt or charred remains of what was once used to be a family’s dwelling place but now a terrible reminder of what destruction a fire not contained in its early stage can do.
Warning and educating our communities and people about the dangers of fire is very important to help safeguard families and properties from fire and its associated hazards.
According to a recent fire statistic compiled by the fire service’s community safety inspector Stanley Danny, “every month there is an average of two fire incidents reported that destroyed lives and properties worth thousands of kina.
“In Port Moresby in the year 2018, the fire service responded to and investigated 27 fire calls, and the total estimated cost of these properties destroyed or damaged by fire is more than K44 million.
“A fire incident can damage a building, its contents and seriously injure or kill its occupants,” Danny said.
The office of the Chief Fire Officer has directed the fire service’s community safety section and fire stations around the country this year to initiate new and proactive fire safety awareness approaches to reach out to the public to disseminate fire safety messages in their respective fire zones or areas of operation.
Chief Fire Officer Bill Roo also acknowledged the fact that fire fighters in most instances turned up late to put out fires but he is urging the public to understand the challenges and impediments firefighters are faced with every day when responding to fire calls, such as how quick a fire call is dispatched to a fire station, traffic congestion or the distance travelled to the scene of fire.
“This is one way firefighters can help teach and give advice to the public to safeguard themselves to avoid fires at home or at the work place,” Roo said.
Waigani Fire Station, one of the busiest fire stations in NCD, located in Moresby North-west electorate, is taking the lead in implementing the directive from the office of the Chief Fire Officer and the station’s fire fighters are taking fire safety messages to home owners.
According to station commander, Supt Farapo Arifeae, “the safe home programme is an initiative taken by the fire fighters to visit homes to disseminate safety messages right to the doorsteps.
“It is a new approach that gives the home owners or occupants the opportunity to express concern over fire safety and related fire hazard issues affecting their homes,” Farapo said.
The initiative carried out by Supt Farapo and his fire personnel continues from their previous visit throughout the Morata area last year.
“We had homeowners who expressed gratitude towards the fire service regarding the programme and I believe that it is one strategy the fire service can utilise to effectively carry out fire safety messages to the communities,” Farapo added.
On average, the Waigani Fire Station receives and attends to three fire calls in a month and since January, 2019, the station has responded to 10 structure fires.
Supt Farapo said his firefighters would continue to walk from house to house with the aim of promoting fire safety with plans to cover all of Waigani Fire Station’s response area including settlements.
In a house-to-house visit held on March 5, they went into the North Waigani’s PNG Power compound conducting awareness and distributing fire safety posters and pamphlets.
Benson Uari, a resident on Curlew Street thanked the firefighters for their visit adding that it was the first time the fire service had come out into their community and informing the residents about fire safety.
Uari also challenged the fire service to be effective in their response towards fire incidents.
Supt Farapo also stressed the importance of property owners having smoke alarms installed in their homes to warn occupants of any smoke or fire within the building.
He said there was also a big need for property owners and residents to be fire-cautious and mindful of other fire hazards surrounding their properties.
“Many house fires usually start when people become negligent and careless, for example, by overloading power points, leaving electrical appliances on or burning candles unattended inside the house.
“And so far, most of the structure fires we have attended to in our zone of operation are residential house fires and from our investigation, these are caused by negligence and carelessness of occupants.
“The fire service also does not have a direct link to every home and property where it can monitor them 24 hours a day, hence we cannot detect fire from your property from the fire station or communication centre,” Supt Farapo said.
It is advisable to have the fire service emergency numbers for NCD written clearly and pasted within the building to be used during emergencies. Emergency numbers for Waigani fire station is 323 0495 and the fire communication center number is 110 or 1100.
For the PNG Fire Service, the challenge to educate everyone about fire safety and fire prevention strategies continues to be a daunting task. It will involve reaching out to all suburbs, urban villages, settlements and rapidly developing town centers while at the same time carry out its other core response and non-response activities.
The fire service not only responds and attends to fire or other emergency calls, it also provides building inspections, building screening and approvals, basic fire fighter training and community fire safety awareness and education.
To find out more about the core and non-core response activities and the main responsibilities of the PNG Fire Service log onto the fire service website: firstname.lastname@example.org or search us on our Facebook page: @pngfireservice.
• David George is the PNG Fire Service Public Relations Officer.