Nairobi only has two operational fire stations despite frequent fire outbreaks
Nairobi County government is yet to construct its own fire station despite having amassed at least Sh1.6 billion in fire inspection revenue since 2013.
The entire Nairobi City, with a population of more than 4 million people, only has two functional fire stations, all built before independence.
This is despite the capital city, especially the informal settlements and markets, experiencing frequent fire outbreaks that have left scores of people dead and others injured with properties of unknown value destroyed in the process.
Kenya National Fire Brigade Association (KENFIBA) secretary general Francis Liech says that between 8 and 10 fire incidents are reported to Nairobi County Fire Brigade control room daily.
The two operational ones are Koja Fire Station along Tom Mboya Street, built in 1907 and another one at Industrial Area built in 1957.
There are two others which are currently under construction, one along Kangundo Road and another at Waithaka, but all are all funded by the World Bank.
There is also one in Gigiri which was reclaimed just last year from a private developer who had allegedly grabbed and turned it into a garage.
According to records in a document presented by officers from City Hall’s Disaster Management and Coordination department while appearing before Nairobi County Assembly Budget and Appropriation committee on Friday, the county government received Sh1.63 billion in fire inspection revenue between July, 2013 and February, 2019.
In the 2013/2014 financial year, the department recorded Sh144 million in annual revenue. This increased to Sh148 million the following financial year while in 2015/2016 financial year, Sh162.5 million was collected.
The annual collections almost tripled in 2016/2017 financial year Sh433 million, Sh436.8 million in 2017/2018 while as at March 29, the collection stands at Sh308 million.
But despite the huge collections, City Hall director of Fire and Rescue Services Brian Kisali told the committee that the county government only has 52 fire engines and 120 trained fire fighters but 11 will retire this year and another 13 next year.
“We face three major challenges which affects fire department’s service delivery. We have a shortage of manpower, a lack of proper enforcement because the inspectorate officers are very few and we also lack utility vehicles which are meant to be used by our officers when they go to train the community on fire related issues,” he said.
A planned recruitment of 1, 200 new firefighters last year flopped despite reports that they had even undergone training.
Nevertheless, Mr Kisali said they were awaiting for the proper reconstitution of a new County Assembly Public Service Board come July where they are expecting to get 200 more fire fighters.
In October, 2017, the county was to receive 26 fire engines donated by Somati Vehicles NV, a Belgium-based company.
In 2016, City Hall had only 10 fire engines, of which 4 engines, all second-hand, were donated in August the same year by Japanese government at a tune of Sh200 million.
“We are currently training volunteers across the county and we are in contact with sub-county administrators to organize for more youths to turn out for trainings and join us where they will be given some allowance for their work,” said Mr Kisali.
Last year, County Disaster Management and Coordination chief officer Ann Mwenda said that out of 4, 044 hydrants in Nairobi, only 103 are functioning with most affected being along Thika Super highway.
She stated that the functioning ones are at Safari Park having two, Koja, Globe roundabout, Runda, Kijabe Street, and three at Industrial area, and James Gichuru road although she added that World Bank was doing boreholes across the county at Tom Mboya Street, Enterprise Road, Kangundo Road, Dagoretti and in Waithaka to assist in water availability in places where hydrants are dry.