Sonko’s missed call that got firemen fired
Senator Mike Sonko’s missed call to the Fire Department has cost three senior officers their jobs.
Sonko made a call to the department on Saturday night when fire gutted dozens of houses in Kariobangi, but the officers in charge at the time failed to pick up.
An infuriated Sonko and the area county representative Michael Wainaina then decided to storm the fire department only to find that the only fire engine available had broken down so the fire fighters could do nothing to help save the situation.
Come Monday, the County Secretary Lillian Ndegwa suspended the head of the fire department Brian Ngugi, the officer on duty on the fateful night and one more fire officer on grounds of negligence.
“There was negligence on the part of the officers. We have taken disciplinary action against them. They did not respond professionally,” she explained.
Mrs Ndegwa, who was accompanied by the County Executive member in charge of Roads and Transport Mr Evans Ondiek, said the mere lack of a fire engine cited by the suspended officers was not a good reason for their failure to act.
But yesterday (Tuesday), Sonko came to the defence of the suspended firemen saying they could have done nothing in the circumstances as the only fire engine had broken down.
“The fire engine had broken down. There was nothing the officers did or could do. They were helpless,” he said.
He lamented that it was becoming increasingly difficult to rescue lives and property whenever fire broke out in Nairobi because the fire engines are not there.
Besides the lack of a functioning fire engine, the department also lacks enough staff to fight fires in Nairobi.
According to statistics at the fire department, there are only 104 fire fighters and 33 senior officers, less than half of the number required.
Ms Ndegwa said they are expecting seven firefighting engines and equipment in the next six months from Belgium.
They are reported to have cost the county government a whopping Sh1.13 billion.
News that the firefighters had been suspended was met with outrage from the Kenya National Fire Brigade Association Chairman Francis Liech who termed the decision as uncalled for.
“The fact of the matter was that there was no fire engine, a situation the duty officer and the fireman in charge of the crew could not help,” said Liech.
Liech further said that it is up to the County Government to channel funds to the Nairobi Fire Brigades before throwing junior officers under the bus when they fail.
“The engine has been spending a lot of time in the garage, a fact that the county government is well aware of and the Kariobangi incident was a disaster waiting to happen,” added Liech.
He said blame squarely fell on the county government which had not allocated enough funds for the smooth running of the Fire Brigade.