How would you describe your experience at the scene of the tanker explosion at Otedola Bridge?
It is the biggest assignment I’ve embarked on as a fireman. On that day, I sighted the flame right from our office at Alausa, Ikeja, and I knew it was going to be a catastrophic scene. I quickly alerted my colleagues and we got ourselves prepared; we didn’t need to wait for the public to notify us since we had seen it ourselves. However, on getting to the scene, members of the public started insulting us and some even threw stones at us. They accused us of coming late; meanwhile, it didn’t take us up to seven minutes to get there. We were the first firemen that were at the scene. That was very discouraging.
I held the hose and faced the fire but we were informed that some people were trapped in a vehicle so we had to rescue them first. We were led to the scene by our superior officers and we carried out risk assessment checks to know the best way to tackle the situation. Because of the fire’s ferocity, we had to take turns at holding the hose because it could wear one out in less than five minutes. It was a really sad experience. I want to use this opportunity to solicit the public’s help; they should not hinder us from doing our jobs. I would also advise that the movement of tankers and other heavy duty vehicles should be restricted during the day.
Some people alleged that it took about 35 minutes before the fire service got there.
That’s not true! It didn’t take us up to seven minutes. To be honest, I don’t think we could have done more than we did. When we got there and saw the intensity of the fire, we called for more pumps. Trucks also came from other stations in Ikeja, Bolade-Oshodi and Ilupeju. We were able to rescue some injured people and we didn’t record any casualty on the side of firemen.
What’s your motivation for being a fireman?
Before taking this job, I knew that a fireman’s primary assignment is to save lives and property. I am motivated by the call to serve and save lives. However, I would implore the government to increase our salary and get us comprehensive insurance because our job involves high risk. We need to know that our families would be taken care of if anything bad happens. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t do our job though because anybody can be a victim.
What do you think needs to be done to improve the response time and management of such disasters in future?
The government is doing its best. However, we need more sophisticated equipment and the public should assist us by giving accurate information and allowing us to work unhindered at fire scenes. From a footage I saw of the accident, I realised that a lot of people who were at the scene as the tanker fell were busy recording the incident with their phones instead of calling the emergency services.
People have also alleged that the casualty figure was more than the nine officially stated.
The figure released is the correct one. The reason people think so is because of a video that circulated on social media which showed a bus with about seven people inside engulfed in flames. That particular incident happened somewhere else sometime ago. All the bodies that were recovered at the scene were lined out before they were evacuated