Editorial comment – Our choices, now!

Fire trucks at the scene of the fire in Vatuwaqa in Suva, on Monday, September 12, 2022. Picture: JOSAIA VERENAKADAVU

The recent announcement by the National Fire Authority that it recorded eight fire incidents in the first two weeks of this month is cause for concern.

NFA chief executive officer CEO Puamau Sowane was quoted saying the number of residential fires had increased recently and it was of great concern.

NFA statistics from January this year to date, point out there were 92 structural fire incidents compared with over 80 structural fire incidents in the same period last year.

Mr Sowane said in most cases the causes of fires were caused purely by negligence and could have been avoided.

In the past nine months, five people had lost their lives to fires compared with six in 2020.

Structural fire statistics, Mr Sowane said, were an indication of the social behaviour of any particular community towards fire safety.

Fire accidents, he said, happened, but they could be avoided. It would require people, he said, to champion and advocate fire safety and understand the devastating impact it can cause.

“It is time to take ownership of your properties and the lives of your families by doing the right thing,” he advised.

Fijians, he said, should check and ensure that all fire safety measures were observed in their homes.

“Identifying hazards that could start a fire in your home or ensuring that all precautionary measures are taken to prevent a fire from happening is the best action everyone can take,” he said.

Every year we talk about house fires. We discuss fire safety. We talk about expert advice and talk about creating awareness.

We discuss the importance of families understanding and appreciating fire safety.

We talk about evacuation plans and fire hot spots in the home. We talk about being proactive. Yet every year homes are destroyed by fires, and many families are left homeless.

We wonder where we are going wrong. What are we not doing right? It hurts when a home goes up in flames.

It is frustrating thinking about the loss, the emotional attachment to the home, financial cost, and years of sacrifice, and in some cases, the loss of lives.

We will continue to raise the challenge we must take head on, which is to adhere to fire safety advice.

That will mean ensuring issues such as hot spots are well maintained, and people are alert working around them.

There are simple safety rules that we can also embrace such as teaching our children not to play with fire, and understanding what must be done in the event of a fire.

That will include evacuation drills every member of the family is familiar with. The goal should be to reduce house fires, and death!

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