Liberia National Fire Service Director Cites Faulty Fire Extinguishers in C. H. Rennie Hospital Fire Incident

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MONROVIA – The Director of the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), Alex Dixon, has disclosed that the escalation of the latest fire incident at the C. H. Rennie Hospital in Kakata, Margibi County was due to the malfunctioning of “faulty” fire extinguishers which were available at the public health facility during the outbreak.

It can be recalled that residents of Margibi and scores of citizens across Liberia woke up to news early Sunday morning that the hospital has gutted fire, leaving the Operation, Records and Emergency Rooms, among others totally destroyed.

The C. H. Rennie Hospital is the only referral hospital in Margibi County.

Providing preliminary reports on the incident in a telephone interview with FrontPage Africa on Monday, August 16, Mr. Dixon disclosed that only one fire extinguisher was functional at the medical facility at the time of the incident.

He pointed out that the incident occurred when an unidentified electrician was requested by authorities of the hospital to help resolve some electrical issues at the facility.

He disclosed that while working, the electrician noticed the electrical shock, a situation that compelled an unidentified security guard to fight the fire along with others with a single fire extinguisher at the public health facility.

Mr. Dixon noted that after exhausting the powder in the only fire extinguisher at the facility, the security guard and others later realized that the remaining extinguishers were faulty after making several attempts to quench the fire.

“The fire incident at the C. H. Rennie Hospital was an electrical shock. It started from the OR (Operation Room) according to our preliminary investigation. According to the security guard, they had one 5kg fire extinguisher that they used; but when he grabbed the second one, it was faulty; it couldn’t discharge because the powder in it was dry. We are still investigating and the findings will be out by Wednesday.

According to him, authorities at the hospital were not refilling or gassing the fire extinguishers that overstayed at the medical facility prior to the incident, even though firefighters have requested them to do so on numerous occasions.

No respect

He pointed out that though firefighters visited the C. H. Rennie Hospital to ensure that fire regulations are adhered to six months ago, they (firefighters) were allegedly disrespected and overlooked.

Mr. Dixon noted that the existence of the faulty fire extinguishers at the facility was reported with a recommendation to have them refill to avoid any casualty, but authorities at the facility did not take the recommendation seriously.

“The firefighters have been going there (C. H. Rennie Hospital) for inspection, but people refused to adhere to it. It’s very pathetic that there is no respect for the staff of the fire service; people overlooked them. These are things that we are going through. They were warned and informed. But the people of the hospital even argued with the county commander until he told his family that nobody should take him to the C. H. Rennie Hospital when he gets sick”.

He pointed out that the patients admitted at the hospital were evacuated, but the majority of the materials at the hospital, including beddings, drugs, among others were destroyed.

Front Street fire incident

“The first fire incident that occurred on Friday at Front, Water and Buchanan Streets, according to our investigation, was caused by an Aminata truck that was coming down the hill and there was a fault on the truck; while climbing the hill, the driver noticed that the steering couldn’t move again. He (driver) used that opportunity while coming down to just allow the truck to go straight down the hill and then he jumped down”.

He pointed out that about six persons sustained injuries as a result of the incident.

According to him, the truck which prompted the incident was carrying about 5,000 gallons of diesel, and not gasoline as being widely speculated in the public.

Mr. Dixon emphasized that following the explosion of the truck, the fire continued to follow the spilled diesel, a situation which impelled the intensity of the incident.

He maintained that the total cost of the damages incurred by business owners and others will be determined following the conclusion of an investigation into the incident.

He noted that the electrical materials on the truck prompted a huge blast that extended to nearby stores and other business centers in the areas.

Mr. Dixon indicated that that the incident could have escalated if firefighters had not taken steps to combat the fire from Front Street while moving down Water Street.

Public safety

Meanwhile, the Director of the LNFS has called on government, through the Liberia National Police to put in place additional measures to promote public safety across the country.

He noted that vehicles plying the streets, especially heavy-duty earthmoving equipment should be “roadworthy” to avoid disasters.

He said tankers transporting flammable items, including gasoline, diesel and other chemicals must be declared fit to ply major routes across the country.

Mr. Dixon further underscored the need for authorities of health centers, businesses, private and public entities to “listen to the LNFS”, procure their fire extinguishers and be certified by the entity to curtail the growing wave of fire disasters in the country.

Court action

He, however, disclosed that the LNFS will be more robust and will not hesitate to take to court individuals or businesses that are not abiding by safety rules and regulations put in place by the entity to prevent fire outbreaks or disasters.

He said the recent wave of fire incidents across the country is a wakeup call for members of the National Legislature to see a reason to allocate a substantial amount to the LNFS in subsequent budgets, noting that, “when you allocating funding for the fire department; it is not for the firefighters or the fire department chief, but those who voted for you”.

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