Market fires have become an annual ritual in Ghana because we have not taken personal responsibility to ensure they do not recur.
We find it easier to always blame the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) for refusing to either pick up distress calls or for arriving late on the scene when goods and property worth millions of Ghana cedis have already been destroyed in the infernos that engulf our markets.
However, the Daily Graphic believes that the narrative can change when traders in the various markets and their assistants go the extra mile to ensure the fires do not start in the first place.
Many market women or traders cook in their shops or sheds because they virtually spend the whole day there trying to eke out a living.
Some also use electrical appliances such as fridges, television sets and other household electronic and electrical gadgets while others have also made their shops their homes.
Unfortunately, although electricity is used most of the time, some of the markets are not properly wired or if they are, inferior or substandard materials are used, which makes the use of many electrical appliances dangerous.
In fact, there have been reports of some people illegally tapping electricity in some markets for use, all of which expose the traders to the fires that are experienced every year.
Yet the necessary precautions such as ensuring that all appliances not in use after trading activities are disconnected or not overloading sockets are not adhered to.
The use of naked fire in and around shops (most of which are wooden), is also rampant with some traders cooking with gas stoves despite the dangers inherent in that practice.
While we await the GNFS to complete its investigation into what caused the fire that razed down some parts of the Odawna Pedestrian Mall at the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange last Wednesday, we are most certain that the cause may be any of those we have listed as factors every year.
Other reasons for the incessant fires is the poor layout of most of our markets which makes access by fire engines almost impossible, coupled with the fact that no deliberate training and sensitisation is given to the traders on how to use fire extinguishers when the fires start.
Most shops do not even have fire extinguishers or any form of firefighting implements.
The Daily Graphic thinks that an end can be put to the yearly fires that affect our markets if city authorities ensure strict compliance with safety rules by the traders.
Those found to flout the rules must be made to face the consequences and repeat offenders removed from the markets.
We need to be serious about preventing these fires by being security conscious ourselves and not by crying over spilt milk anytime there is a fire outbreak at a market and people lose their hard-earned livelihoods.
A cursory recall of markets in the country that have been gutted by fire at one point or the other shows that almost all the major markets in our cities cannot be left out.
In the last seven years, markets that have experienced disastrous fire outbreaks across the country have included the Mallam Atta, Kantamanto, Makola Number Two, Mallam and Dome markets; the Makola Shopping Mall all in Accra as well as the Kumasi Central Market.
On Boxing Day last year, some parts of the Makola Market were gutted by fire that destroyed several goods and made the affected traders the poorer.
The Daily Graphic calls for a concerted action by all stakeholders, including the GNFS, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) and the police, to ensure that we nip the annual market fires the country experiences in the bud.
Ghana News Headlines
For latest news in Ghana, visit Graphic Online news headlines page Ghana news page