By Mustapha Jallow
The Gambia Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) on Wednesday told Foroyaa that they need more firefighters and mobility in order for them to function effectively and fight against hundreds of bush fires in the country.
Amdou FM Njie, Cadet Fire Officer and also the deputy spokesperson of GFRS, made the request at his office in Banjul. His remarks were in response to calls made by the Kiang residents who are living in fear after an inferno killed a 36-year-old man recently.
Njie said bush fires are common in Kiang in the Lower River Region (LRR), saying as a department they find it disheartening when they hear about fire incidents. He said 99.9 per cent of the bush fires are caused by people within the community who either go to the bush to harvest honey (as they set the fire in order for the flames to scare the bees) or through accidents.
“This happens because people go to the bush either to harvest bees or clear their farms which is a factor leading to bushfires,” he said.
Njie said Kiang is vulnerable to bush fires and their fact-findings showed that bee harvesters use fire to drive away bees. He said another challenge they are grappling with is that they only have one fire station in the entire Lower River Region situated in Jarra Soma.’
The Fire Officer said the distance between Soma and Kiang is far (which is over 60 kilometers), adding it issometimes difficult to fight bush fires.
He however urged the community members to take responsibility and ownership so that they can collectively fight the bushfires, because the forest belongs to them.
In order for them to fight against imfernos, Njie said they need pick-up vehicles that would make their work easy and curb the fires ravaging the communities. He said they have 12 fire stations and six rescue stations across the country, but they need more.
“We need more recruits and mobility to make sure we align with the international standards,’’ he said.
According to him, they have a sensitization program called “Fire-Safety Unit,’’ run by a team that usually goes out and inform residents or community members on various topics on fire issues. He said some will hold radio talk shows while others reach out to the communities in face-to-face meetings.
Njie urged Gambians, especially those in the rural areas, to take full ownership of the fight and in that the way, they can protect their homes and lands as well as their forest.
“When the forest is devastated, we tend to lost rain-flow our agricultural products will reduce… Therefore, people have to know this,’’ he said.
It could be recalled that following the death of a 36-year-old man, who was killed by inferno in Kiang ‘Wurokang’, residents of the area are now pleading with authorities to intervene to ensure the annual fire outbreaks that usually claim lives and properties in their communities are averted before another outbreak ensues.
The recent inferno was described by locals as the nation’s largest bushfire that destroyed timber trees, crops, grass, small ground species- animals and pests, and claimed the life of a human being.