Sealed fire hydrants hamper rescue efforts - None functions in Accra CBD - GNFS

BY: Nii Martey M. Botchway

The Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) has revealed that fire hydrants within the Central Business District (CBD) of Accra have been sealed since 1992.

The situation, according to the service, had made fire-fighting and rescue mission very difficult for the service.

Speaking at a press briefing in Accra Tuesday [July 6, 2021], the Chief Fire Officer (CFO), Mr Edwin Ekow Blankson, said efforts by the GNFS to have the hydrants reopened by the Ghana Water Company Limited had proved futile.

He explained that the hydrants were under the management of the GWCL, and for as long as he could remember, the GNFS had been engaging the GWCL to rectify the challenge, but nothing seemed to come from it.

"There is very little we can do about the hydrants because they are managed by the GWCL," the CFO intimated.

He, therefore, appealed to the GWCL to, as a matter of urgency, restore the sealed hydrants to make the work of the GNFS easier.

Read also: Fire ravages 3-storey shopping centre at Makola

Hydrants are devices for extracting water from pipelines and water distribution systems.

They are connection points into which firefighters can tap for water supply faster in the event of a fire.

Hydrants are a critical piece of any emergency response system used to preserve lives and properties in case of fire outbreaks.

There are two types of fire hydrants - underground and above-ground pillar-type hydrants.

The Chief Fire Officer, Edwin Ekow Blankson explaining some points in the press conference. Picture: NII MARTEY M. BOTCHWAY

Essential to fire fighting

Mr Blankson explained that the sealed hydrants, which are placed at strategic locations within the CBD, were to aid the GNFS in its fire-fighting and rescue missions.

"They serve as an essential part of the fire-fighting process, as they allow us access to a steady flow of water during operations," he said.

Backlash

Reacting to public outcry and backlash over the supposed inability of the GNFS to deal with the Makola fire which resulted in extensive damage, CFO Blankson said his men and women should rather be commended for containing the fire.

He explained that the fire tenders which went to the scene arrived with water, and the service called for more water which never arrived.

He revealed that the GNFS had a collaboration with a private provider to provide the service with back-up water in times of crisis; however, the private provider failed to show up after several calls were made to it.

CFO Blankson further indicated that the men on the ground later got to understand that the private provider had failed to show up because the last time it rendered service to the GNFS, it was given coupons, instead of cash, hence its failure to show up.

He, however, added that the Ghana Police Service and the Ghana Prisons Service were at the scene to assist firemen on the ground and expressed appreciation to them.

Challenges

Mr Blankson explained that the combustible nature of items in the building escalated the fire, while some challenges encountered during the operation did not make the task any easier.

Touching on challenges faced by the team dispatched to the scene, the CFO said firemen had to go to the Kwame Nkrumah Circle and surrounding communities for water due to the unavailability of water in the CBD.

That, coupled with road traffic difficulties and the uncooperative attitude of the public, added to the unfortunate situation.

Additionally, he said, the GNFS had to wait for the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to cut off power to the building and the area as a whole before proceeding to put out the fire.

He gave an assurance of the GNFS's commitment to fight fire and safeguard properties.

Procurement

The CFO said the government was in the process of acquiring new equipment worth $61 million for the service.

He explained that the public procurement authority had approved proposals for the purchase of the equipment, and that the service was awaiting parliamentary approval for the budget to secure the equipment.

GWCL

When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the Ghana Water Company Limited, Mr Stanley Martey, declined comment on the sealed hydrants.

He explained that the GWCL was not privy to the content of the press conference organised by the GNFS and would not be in a position to respond to it.

Mr Martey gave an assurance to respond to the issues raised by the GNFS in due course.