Another fire, another furore and in all likelihood another failure to take action. The cause of the blaze on Sunday on the top floor of Kimathi House looks like it has been identified but the failure of the fire service and the Nairobi Water Company will probably, once again, be forgotten. Talking of forgotten: can anyone remember the Nakumatt fire of 2009?
The City Council of Nairobi has said that arson targeted at a law firm’s office is the most likely cause of the last weekend’s fire at Kimathi House. The City Engineers look like they have ruled out an electrical fault as the cause but other questions remain.
The fire brigade was unable to tackle the sixth floor fire because they could not reach it with extendable ladders. They had the necessary equipment it seems, donated by the British government, but had not been trained to use it.
Meanwhile, the fire brigade’s complaint that fire hydrants in the area were not working has been denied by the Nairobi Water Company.
REMEMBER THE NAKUMATT FIRE DISASTER?
No one died in the Kimathi House inferno, thank goodness, but the incident does bring back memories of another fire in Nairobi in 2009. It started the Kenya Forum thinking of the parallels between the two incidents and to ask whatever happened after that earlier disaster.
It was on 28 January, 2009, that the Nakumatt supermarket at the end of Kenyatta Avenue went up in flames. This Forum correspondent can still remember the great column of smoke that menacingly rose above the city centre.
Over 40 people died in the tragedy, including Angel Wainaina, star of the Cobra Squad TV series and Peter Serry, the CEO of Tusker FC.
Word had it at the time that at the onset of the fire the Nakumatt staff closed and locked the grills around the shopping centre to stop looters. The fire brigade took an hour before they began tackling the fire. Apparently their machines were not loaded up with water and the fire hydrants nearby were not working (ring a bell?).
Over three years later and can anyone recall any action being taken as a result of the Nakumatt fire of 2009? Was anyone prosecuted? Were any changes to the city’s fire response instituted? Did the forty plus people who died count for nothing? And here we are again: big fire, late response by the fire brigade, equipment out of order, and fire hydrants not working.