Women in Malawi have been called upon to join the Fire Brigades to enhance the service delivery in the fighting and rescue services in the country. Blantyre City Council Chief Executive Officer Ted Nandolo asserted that having women in rescue teams simplifies the work and that is what Malawi Fire Brigades urgently need. “I call upon young women to join the fire rescue service so that they can be effectively helping fellow women when in need because it is far much easier and better for same sex rescuers to handle each other in certain circumstances. “Culturally what is expected in this country is that women help each other freely but our fire brigade has been so unique in that the male fire fighters are doing a good job, “the chief executive officer said.
He added: “However, I challenge women to join this noble profession because having them will make the Brigade complete and things could be working out much better.” Malawi has a single female fire fighter and rescuer who joined the Blantyre City Council some three years ago. Mr. Nandolo made the call Friday October 5 2012 when the Blantyre City Council opened the doors of a new fire station in the commercial business district (CBD), the first one of its kind.
The idea behind opening satellite fire station is about reducing response time because with a single fire station at the ginnery corner response to fires has been hectic drawing rebuke from the public. “It is against this back ground that the idea was hatched so that the Blantyre CBD, which is also a hub of business in Blantyre, and its surrounding areas, are served faster using this fire station,” the Chief Executive Officer announced.
The BCC boss lamented that although the brigade is blamed of delaying in responding to fire calls partly due to the distance the firefighter’s travel, the citizens also play host to other factors like late calling of the fire brigade; failure to give way by some motorists and the nature of the roads in the country.
“But this is the beginning of the our modernizing process we are looking at having mores satellite fire stations in strategic areas such as Makata oil firms, Limbe central business district and Chirimba industrial area so that response time is within the accepted international standards of five minutes..
Currently, it was revealed, the Blantyre City council manages a response time of 15 to 20 minutes, which the council boss said; “is not good enough”. “I feel proud to see a project which has been on the drawing board for a long time come to reality now. This is a clear sign of commitment and dedication to the improvement of fire and rescue delivery to our residents by the city council,” applauded Nandolo.
The city council chief however called upon the corporate and individual citizens to support the fire brigade. The new fire-operating site is at the Old Town Hall along the Victoria Avenue right in the city of Blantyre. Chief Fire Officer Stanford Nanfuko disclosed that the Blantyre City Council Fire Brigade started its operations in 1961 on part time basis and it had two engines when rolling off with all members of staff expatriates.
The brigade started full time services after independence (in 1964) and it was that year when a Mr. C. L. Gondwe, a Malawian was incorporated as a senior fire officer (division fire officer). He later became the first Malawian chief fire officer. Mr. Nanfuko revealed that proposals to have satellite fire fighting station started back in the 1970s. “That time we wanted to open modern and standard fire stations at Independence arc along the highway with sub stations across the city but it never materialized until 51 years down the line which to me is a milestone and we should be proud of this achievement,” the chief fire officer said.
According to the Chief Fire Officer, the Blantyre City Council Fire Brigade faces many challenges, some of which are Fire Service Accommodation, Fire Appliances, Training of Fire Personnel; Personal Protection Equipment and Vandalism of Fire Hydrants. Blantyre City Council Fire Brigade was established under the international principals governing the fire and rescue service affect fire brigade in every aspect.
Blantyre City Council offers fire and rescue services not only to Blantyre City residents but also across the region. In addition, the Council’s Fire Brigade also offers lessons to organizations and institutions that show interest.
The Brigade also offers free education visits to schools and other interested groups as one way of civic educating the masses on issues of fire, safety and rescue. “The mission of the Brigade is to protect and serve the people within and around the city of Blantyre through enhanced public safety; reducing prevalence of fire incidents and providing rescue services which we do in many ways,” Nanfuko said.
Malawi has has fire brigades at the city councils of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba, at the Malawi Defence Force and at the international Airports of Chileka in Blantyre, Lilongwe in the capital city and at Mzuzu in the northern region. In times of need, the fire brigades come to the rescue of the other, accordingly.
By Knowledge Chiwambo