Locals disappointed in fire brigade, while appreciating the police
Fire broke out on Thursday February 7th, 2013 around Shoa Hostel in Piassa, which claimed the lives of three people and injured several others while destroying property valued in millions of birr. A family of three lost their lives from the fire which allegedly started around 3:00 am while residents were sleeping. The fire also caused more than six serious and light injuries, according to Nigat Mamo, Communications Officer at the Addis Ababa Fire and Emergency Services Agency.
All three people who died from the fire were female, including one child who arrived from the countryside to reside with her aunt, said Bereket Surur, a neighbor.
The fire destroyed 46 houses and left 185 people homeless. Only few residents were able to remove personal and household items from their homes according to witnesses Capital talked to. Apparently, everything went up in flames, including three minibuses and one lada [taxi] that were parked in the yard. Bereket, who is married with five children, washes cars for a living around Arada Building. He lost everything he owned but was able to save his children and wife. He said that he witnessed the police find and remove a bunch of changes in a sack which was completely burnt and which belonged to him, estimating that it was somewhere in the region of four thousand birr.
A resident who lost his home in the fire and requested anonymity informed Capital that he run all the way to the agency that also incorporates the Arada branch Fire Brigade, located across St. George Church to inform them as they were not answering their phone. Many were calling trying to inform them of the situation. ”As far as I know, the fire started around 3:00am late at night. It took me about an hour to sort myself out and reach the agency,” he said.
He claims to have reported the case around 4:00am, just an hour after the fire started when, according to him, only one house was on fire. “But the fire brigade arrived an hour and a half later, much longer than it took me to run all the way to their office!” He also said that many of the employees were quite old (over the age of 50) and were not fit as he observed that they were unable to even properly hold and direct the fire hoses towards the flames. “We, the youth of this area, literally had to help them do their jobs,” he claimed. “You could also tell from the smell of their breath that they were quite drunk.” The locals appreciated the police for cooperating with the youth in helping to control the fire from spreading to nearby houses.
Nigat argued that the agency was informed about the emergency at 5:30am in the morning. “It took us only three minutes to reach the site as it isn’t too far from our office,” he said. Nigat reported that the fire brigade used 184,000 litre of water and 500 litre of foam to contain the fire.
For Nigat, age doesn’t matter; apparently to be employed by the brigade, experience and strength is what matters, he states. He downplays the residents’ allegations of drunkenness and misconduct about his colleagues who were tasked to put out the fire. “They were on duty since 5:30pm yesterday and I don’t have the time to address unfounded allegations,” he said, adding that the agency will check if the allegations are true or not, though.
Nigat didn’t comment on the financial loss the fire caused as the case is under investigation by the police. He only confirmed that the number people who died were three and that the identification process is ongoing.
Residents of these houses used to live in kebele houses around “Kibe Gibi”, also in Piazza, and were moved to these kebele houses when they lost their homes in another fire outbreak three years ago. They are now being housed by the Arada Sub City, Woreda 10 administration in makeshift homes like its stores and empty offices. Kuma Demeksa, Mayor of Addis Ababa, who has visited the victims of the accident, has promised to take care of them by providing accommodation and relocating them to different sub cities.