Ghana’s firefighters in peril: Urgent call for equipment upgrade

As the world marks International Firefighters’ Day today, May 4, in Ghana, firefighters are facing a serious crisis as inadequate and faulty firefighting equipment, including fire tenders, threatens the safety of both firefighters and the communities they serve.

The recent tragedy involving Joshua Kankam, a 28-year-old firefighter, and his three colleagues highlights the pressing need for attention to be directed towards the Ghana National Fire Service.

It was a tragic day in January when Joshua and his team responded to a fire emergency in West Legon. As they battled the inferno, a building collapsed on them, leaving Joshua and his colleagues fighting for their lives.

Joshua recalls the harrowing experience, emphasizing the critical role their helmets played in their survival. Without proper equipment, their fate could have been far more devastating.

Unfortunately, Joshua’s ordeal is not an isolated incident. A comprehensive investigation conducted by reporter Joseph Armstrong Gold-Alorgbey revealed a stark reality: many fire stations in the capital are equipped with non-functional or out-of-commission fire tenders, leaving communities exposed to fire disasters.

At the core of this crisis lies the age and condition of the fire tenders themselves. At the Fire Service Headquarters, two out of three fire tenders were found to be faulty. Similar situations were observed at other stations, including Madina and Legon, where fire tenders were either non-operational or unavailable.

Of even greater concern is the relocation of vital equipment, such as the fire tender stationed at Parliament House, leaving crucial areas without adequate fire protection.

This shortage of operational fire tenders extends to institutions like the Fire Service National Training School, which lacks essential equipment such as fire tenders and ambulances.

Moreover, the operational fire tenders that do exist are aging, with some showing signs of rust and decay. Despite efforts by local mechanics to maintain these vehicles, their reliability remains uncertain. Additionally, essential safety gear such as safety boats and breathing apparatus are inadequate, further compromising the safety of firefighters.

While Timothy Osafo Affum, the Public Relations Officer of the GNFS, acknowledges the challenges faced by fire stations in acquiring functional fire tenders, he expresses hope for the procurement of new equipment by the government. However, the urgency of the situation cannot be overstated.

Dr. Albert Brown Gaisie, a former Chief Fire Officer, emphasizes the immediate need for attention to be given to the National Fire Service. With a significant increase in fire incidents recorded nationwide in 2023, it is clear that action must be taken to equip firefighters adequately and ensure their safety.

In the face of these challenges, it is imperative for stakeholders to prioritize the safety and well-being of firefighters and the communities they serve. Investing in modern firefighting equipment and infrastructure is not just a necessity but a moral obligation to protect lives and property.

The time to act is now, before more lives are endangered due to inadequate equipment.

By Joseph Armstrong Gold-Alorgbey

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