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Sakaja’s disaster team exposed as ‘curse’ of market fires impoverishes traders

In a span of three days, the Nairobi County Disaster and Management team has been badly exposed by fires which destroyed property worth millions of shillings in two busy markets in the city.

On Sunday, a section of Toi Market in Kibra Constituency was razed to the ground, leaving traders counting their losses.

According to some of the affected traders at the market, the extent of the damage caused by the fire could have been contained if the Nairobi County fire service team had arrived on time.

Residents claimed that even after arriving late, the fire engines ran out of water and had to be refilled from nearby hydrants.

When Governor Johnson Sakaja visited Toi market the next day, he promised to rebuild the market and assured the affected traders of his support and assistance.

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Three days later, another fire brought down the entire Mutindwa market in the Buruburu area, in an incident that reportedly started at 2am.

Residents struggled to extinguish the fire, which eventually spread and destroyed all the structures in the market.

Traders at Toi Market after fire burnt down their business premises on June 11, 2023. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL

Fire engines from Ruaraka Fire Station and the Kenya Defence Forces arrived hours later after the market had been razed to the ground.

Residents demanded answers from Governor Sakaja’s administration following the late response of the fire service, despite the fact that Kangundo Fire Station is only a few metres away from the market.

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In his speech to the Nairobi County Assembly last year, the governor promised to overhaul the disaster management sector to prevent frequent fire outbreaks.

“We intend to create a fire station, service the boreholes, and hydrants and ensure access throughout the market. We are keen on revamping our disaster response and management,” Sakaja said.

Early this year, more than 100 fire and rescue teams from the county were taken through rigorous training at the Kangundo Road fire station to improve their skills.

Traders scavenge for valuables at Toi Market in Kibra following a fire incident on June 11, 2023. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU

“In line with Governor Sakaja’s manifesto and mantra of a city of order, dignity, hope and opportunity for all, we will ensure that the training offered at Kangundo Road fire station prepares our officers and trainees the much-needed preparation to deal with the real emergency issues and be able to save lives and improve the teams capacity to fight disasters,” County Disaster and Emergency Management Chief Officer Mr Bram Simiyu said during the training.

The same fire station also hosted the graduation of 300 firemen and women who joined the sector, bringing the total number of firefighters to 700.

During the administration of the defunct Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), 24 fire engines were repaired to be able to respond to emerging fires incidences.

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