Parliament’s edicts boost fire, rescue preparedness

By Francis Kajubi , The Guardian
Published at 06:00 AM Jun 11 2024
Geared up for a rescue mission.
Photo: File
Geared up for a rescue mission.

RESIDENTS and small to medium entrepreneurs in Dar es Salaam have lauded the recent National Assembly resolutions aimed at enhancing the operational effectiveness of the Fire and Rescue Force which were put forth last Thursday, focus on bolstering the force's capabilities in safeguarding both human lives and properties.

The parliamentary decisions come in the wake of a special report published by this paper on April 2, 2024, highlighting the Fire and Rescue Force's struggle to effectively respond to fire incidents. This inadequacy had eroded public confidence in the force's ability to fulfill its mandated responsibilities under the Fire and Rescue Force (Amendments) Act Cap 427 R.E 2021.

Following the widespread dissemination of this report, on April 4, 2024, Geoffrey Pinda, Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Land, Housing, and Human Settlements Development, representing the Minister for Home Affairs, Hamad Masauni, informed the National Assembly about the government's successful efforts in securing a concessional loan amounting to 257.90bn/- (about $100 million).

According to Pinda, this financial support is earmarked for the acquisition of 150 new fire tenders, thus addressing the critical need for enhancing the Fire and Rescue Force's firefighting capabilities. 

Pinda confirmed that the loan was issued by Adex Limited, an international consulting firm based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

This information was in response to questions from Members of Parliament who were seeking clarification on the government's plans to address the challenges facing the Fire and Rescue Force, such as the shortage of fire tenders.

In a session held on June 6, 2024, the National Assembly convened for nearly two hours to discuss solutions to the challenges faced by the Fire and Rescue Force. The discussion culminated in the adoption of five resolutions aimed at tackling the operational issues plaguing the Force.

The five resolutions were a result of a private motion brought forward by Priscus Tarimo, the Moshi Urban MP, who sought to spark a conversation and find common ground on how to address the chronic operational challenges facing the Fire and Rescue Force.

Residents of Dar es Salaam expressed their satisfaction with the resolutions passed by the National Assembly in interviews conducted with reporters over the weekend. They welcomed the government's commitment to addressing the challenges faced by the Fire and Rescue Force, particularly in ensuring the safety of lives and properties.

Martha Aloyce, a 26-year-old secondhand garments seller at Karume market in the city, expressed her happiness upon learning that the parliament had resolved for the government to table a bill in the National Assembly.

This bill would enable district councils and town councils to allocate funds in their budgets for purchasing fire tenders and other rescue equipment.

Aloyce shared her optimism, believing that this decision would enable local authorities to collaborate closely with the central government in procuring sufficient fire tenders for the entire country.

She recounted a personal experience of losing her business valued at 12 million Tanzanian Shillings in a previous fire incident that engulfed the market.

Geoffrey Milonge, the chairperson of Karume market, also expressed his satisfaction with the parliament's resolutions. He commended the government for recognizing the importance of making Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) happy.

Milonge shared his plans to organize meetings and inform traders at the market about the government's commitment to addressing fire incidents, which often impact SMEs significantly.

Masanja Mabula, a 40-year-old resident of Manzese Darajani in Dar es Salaam, emphasized the importance of the resolutions in guaranteeing the protection of human lives and properties if fire tenders are made widely available.

Mabula, who had read about the resolutions in the newspapers, expressed relief at the prospect of increased access to fire tenders. He recounted a tragic incident where a family in the neighborhood lost two children due to a lack of adequate water in a fire tender during a house fire a year ago.

Overall, the residents of Dar es Salaam highlighted the significance of the government's actions in addressing the challenges faced by SMEs and communities in combating fire incidents. Their reactions reflect a sense of optimism and relief at the parliamentary resolutions aimed at enhancing fire safety measures across the country.

Mabula emphasized the importance of investing significantly in establishing an adequate number of water hydrant stations in the streets. He believes that having these stations readily available would ensure that fire tenders do not waste time searching for water during emergencies.

Mwanahawa Salim, a 24-year-old grain wholesaler at Magomeni shopping mall, applauded the parliamentarians for their resolutions, noting that they came at a crucial time.

She expressed her reaction to seeing the news on TV, describing her surprise and hope that these initiatives would bring lasting relief, despite being implemented after tragic losses of lives and property in previous fire incidents.

On the other hand, Bazil Haji, a 36-year-old vendor at Mwananyamala food market, expressed his approval of the procurement of additional fire tenders.

Haji mentioned reading the newspaper and being pleased that the five resolutions addressed the suffering that individuals had endured due to the devastation caused by fires, leading to loss of loved ones and property.

Andrew Mathew, a 32-year-old electronic devices retail seller at Mwenge market, stressed that simply acquiring firefighting equipment is insufficient.

He suggested that public awareness on the importance of insuring belongings at appropriate premiums is crucial. Mathew believes that educating people, especially small business owners, on insurance is vital for the success of the initiative in preventing losses from fire incidents.

He asserted that one may find a person owning a business worth 100mn/- or a residential house worth 200mn/- he ensures the business and the house at low values expecting to pay low premiums and being paid handsome amounts of claims which is not the case.

During the resolutions debate session held last Thursday in the National Assembly, Reuben Kwagilwa, Handeni Urban MP blamed the treasury for not timely disbursing approved budgets for the Fire and Rescue Force to observe its functions.

“The Treasury has been sluggish in disbursing development funds allocated for the Fire and Rescue Force. For instance, only three weeks have remained to the end of the 2023/24 financial year where the Force was allocated 3bn/- for procuring five fire tenders but as I speak the Treasury has not disbursed the funds,” said Kwagilwa.

Abbas Tarimba, Kinondoni MP said that recently a fire outbreak emerged at Magomeni Mapipa suburb which is about one kilometer from the Fire and Rescue Force headquarters but the burned houses weren’t rescued due to the fact that water hydrant stations were far away to fill the tenders with water.

“According to the information I have, a total of 1,268 water hydrant stations in Dar es Salaam were not operational in 2013. There were only 74 water hydrant stations which were operational;

As of today, only 108 water hydrant stations are operational in the city. There is a huge shortage of water hydrant stations that needs to be fixed,” said Tarimba.

Upon reviewing the resolution outcomes, Dr. Tulia Ackson, the Speaker of the National Assembly, confirmed that they had received unanimous approval from parliamentarians.

She stressed the key points of the resolutions, beginning with the government's directive to draft a bill in the National Assembly. This bill would enable district councils and town councils to include funds in their budgets for the procurement of fire tenders and other essential firefighting equipment.

Dr. Ackson also underlined the significance of the second resolution, which focuses on initiating a bill in the National Assembly to facilitate cooperation agreements between the private sector and the Fire and Rescue Force.

These agreements, outlined in Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs), would enable the private sector to support the procurement of fire tenders and rescue facilities.

Discussing the third resolution, Dr. Ackson highlighted the importance of introducing a bill that would mandate strategic investors to participate in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects related to the procurement of fire tenders and other rescue equipment.

This resolution aims to encourage private sector engagement in supporting essential firefighting initiatives.

The fourth resolution, according to Dr. Ackson, involves drafting a bill to establish guidelines for the installation of water hydrant stations in both current and future water projects.

Additionally, this resolution calls for the signing of Memorandums of Understanding between district and town water authorities and the Fire and Rescue Force to enhance water supply provisions for firefighting operations.

Dr. Ackson mentioned the fifth resolution, which directs the government to develop specific protocols for the annual recruitment of firefighters and rescuers to ensure that the Fire and Rescue Force can effectively address the demands for emergency response and rescue operations.

It was noted that the passed resolutions collectively aim to strengthen firefighting capabilities and enhance emergency response efforts throughout the country.