Six shops along Lumley Street in downtown Freetown were engulfed by fire on Monday night, 6th January 2020, and nearly a billion Leones worth of goods were destroyed. The fire outbreak at 30 Lumley Street is the second major fire incident in the city this year. The burnt out shops sold artificial hair, slippers, torchlights and other general merchandise. A Nigerian trader, Omotayo Oguneru, said he sells artificial women’s hair near the affected shops. He said, “My shop was saved by a stroke of luck. I had to remove the roof of my shop to prevent the fire from spreading to it. We keep our money inside the shops after every market day, so you could imagine how we are feeling right now. The financial loss we face currently is huge,” he lamented. Elvis A. Wilson said he resides in Hastings and does his business at the fire-destroyed area. He was called around 11:00 p.m., he said, by the boys who sleep near the back of the shop. They said they saw smoke coming out of one of the shops. He said at the time of the incident all the shops were closed and the owners had gone home. “The information we got as to the cause of the fire was that electricity was coming on and off and then music was playing inside one of the shops. It was that period of electricity fluctuation that the fire began inside one of the shops,” Wilson stated.
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Goods and products inside the shops were burned. Wilson said the first shop owner, known as Ogidi, lost Le200 million. The fourth shop owner, popularly called Sholade, complained of losing Le300 million. “Nobody died in the blaze that lasted for about four hours before finally being put under control by personnel of the National Fire Force (NFF),” he said. In the first half of 2019, from January to June, 14 shops were completely or partially burnt down by fire due to voltage fluctuations and open flames or Dutch stoves. Also, 22 houses were burnt down due to electrical fluctuations. The NFF statistics also showed that January 2019 recorded 60 fire incidents making it the month with the second highest number of fires. Firefighter and Head of Statistics, Nasiru Kamanda Bongay, recommended that more fire stations be established, more firefighters recruited and trained. He also said access roads need to be improved and kept clear to allow fire trucks and personnel to reach fire calls. He strongly suggested that all existing fire hydrants within the municipality be reopened.
By David Thoronka
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