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Firefighters to get more power

Firefighters will have authority to forcefully enter premises to get vantage positions from which to fight flames or other disasters.

Those who stand in their way will be liable to a fine of Sh500,000 or jail terms of up to three years, depending on the gravity of the interference.

These are among some of the measures that will be in force should the National Assembly pass the newly drafted Fire and Rescue Bill into law.

The Bill is to be tabled before the National Assembly this month.

Under the proposed Fire and Rescue Bill, the department will be renamed Fire and Rescue Authority and will not only be in charge of putting out fires but also rescuing people in accident and disaster scenes.

Sourcing of funds

The Authority’s fire marshals will have first priority in such scenes, a task entrusted to police in the past.

A Chief Executive Officer will also be appointed, and he or she will double up as the Board’s Secretary.

Two of the Board members must have had experience in the fire and rescue services sector. The private sector will also have a representative on the Board.

The last slot will be allocated to an association representing the interests of firemen, likely to be from the Kenya Fire Brigades Association (Kenfiba).

The Authority will remain under county governments but will be run by a six man board headed by a chairperson who must have completed a university course related to firefighting.

The Board will be responsible for sourcing of funds and equipment for the authority and ensuring the county has the required number of fire stations and posts.

Each authority will have the power to enter into agreements with authorities from other countries that may be of benefit to them.

“A few years ago, we turned down a donation of fire engines and equipment from Japan because of disagreements with the City Council. With the new laws, we shall not miss out on benefitting from such agreements,” said Kenfiba Secretary General Francis Liech.

Quick implementation

The organisation has lauded the Bill, with Mr Liech saying it is revolutionary for it will help the authority achieve its goals with ease.

He added that Kenfiba, which will be awarded a post in each board, will push for the quick implementation of policies outlined in the Bill as soon as it is passed in Parliament.

“Some of the things in the document are urgent, for instance, hiring of firemen, establishment of fire stations and training facilities, and purchase of equipment. We haven’t recruited any firemen since 1985, and some have died while others like me retired long time ago,” added Mr Liech.

The organisation has already written to the Kenya Law Reforms (KLR) to request inclusion of a few more clauses like addition of hydrants.