A shop owner collapsed on Tuesday as a fire swept through many shops at a popular Brasas Plaza on 43 Martins Street, Balogun Market, Lagos Island.
While the combined efforts of the Lagos State Fire service and the Federal Fire Service were able to quench the Dosunmu market’s inferno at noon, the Balogun market fire lasted till evening.
Brasas Plaza, a five-storey building, was stocked with clothes, bags and other imported goods on every floor.
It was learnt that many of the shop owners just stocked their shops in preparation for the December sales.
Eyewitnesses said the fire started around 9:30am from an electrical fault.
They said the attention of the people at the Brasas Plaza was called to the electrical wire that caught fire, but they rebuffed them, saying it was nothing much.
“Unfortunately, the light started where the owner of the Brasas Plaza placed two big electricity generating sets. Shortly after, the fire spread to where oil was kept and exploded.
“Before we know what was happening, the fire has become huge to the extent the shop owners couldn’t contain it,” an eyewitness, Abimbola Alao said.
The shout of fire! Fire!! brought many traders out of their shops.
Those who first responded thought it was a small fire until it extended to adjoining shops.
They ran back to lock their shops in a bid to return to help the shops’ owners put out the fire.
Their efforts yielded no results as the fire was gradually extending to theirs.
They quickly employed the service of several young men to help pack their goods out of the shops.
The boys were throwing the goods packed in big sacks down from the second floor to the fifth floor.
Thick black smoke and flames covered the whole area as fire trucks attempted to get access to the fire scene.
In no distance time, commercial activities were grounded.
The Lagos State Fire service came with three fire trucks to quench it. They had no impact on the raging fire.
Many ran to the nearby Union Bank and United Bank for Africa (UBA) for assistance. Both banks brought fire trucks, they couldn’t achieve much.
Soon, the men from the Federal Fire Service stormed the place. Their efforts too could not contain the fire.
The Nation heard an official of the Lagos State Fire service calling for assistance from the Julius Berger around 1pm.
Two hours later, Julius Berger responded with three fire trucks; that still not enough to put out the fire.
The fire had blazed from the back of the building to the front with firefighters battling it at both ends.
Some hoodlums took advantage of the situation to steal phones and other items from the crowd.
Lagos State Fire Service Director, Mrs Margaret Adeseye said her men were on top of the situation.
She described as “untrue” the claims by the crowd that the service did not bring enough fire trucks.
“I turned out three vehicles at a go; I turned out the two from Lekki station and one from Ilupeju immediately we were alerted. I also directed the ones from Alausa to join immediately,” she said.
Mrs Adeseye said the government would conduct an investigation into the cause of the fire.
“After we douse the fire, we’re still going into the investigation. It’s after an investigation that I’ll be able to advice on the way forward. We’ll definitely come out with a reasonable outcome that would prevent a reoccurrence,” she said.
General Manager of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr Femi Osanyintolu, said the emergency responders were able to locate and localise the fire incident.
“We were able to prevent it from spreading. We have our challenges and the major one is the real access to the source of the fire. Secondly, we discovered that the shop owners stored highly inflammable substances and highly inflammable materials and the way they position their shops is so adjacent and so interlocking. This made the fire spread from one shop to another,” he said.
Osanyintolu urged the people not to be panicked.
“There are multi shops involved. The operation is still ongoing. After the operation, we would count the numbers of the shops but no casualties whatsoever because our emergency response was swift, effective and efficient, we don’t have any casualties nor any mortalities, the operation is on smoothly,” he said.
The arrival of the Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Central Business District (CBD), Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi paved way for the fire trucks of the emergency responders to have unhindered access to the area.
He led the districts security officials to clear the crowd at the scene and cordoned off the whole area.
The crowd were pushed back to an appreciable distance.
Prince Elegushi told The Nation that he was yet to ascertain the cause of the fire but the state government would do all within its power to forestall further reoccurrence.
He thanked the Union Bank, UBA and Julius Berger for responding swiftly.
“I’m yet to confirm the cause of the fire; so I don’t just want to say what I’ve not confirmed but I’m still doing my investigation. I met a crowded area and that is not good for this kind of operation. We just want to ensure safety first. So, anybody that has no job here should leave, that’s what I’m saying. Everybody should leave. The officers on ground have job to do; so we don’t need people standing, videoing or whatever except the appropriate media houses,” he said.
Head of the Federal Fire Service in Southwest Ganiyu Olayiwola said he had to split his men to fire fires at Dosunmu and Balogum markets.
“The challenges we are having is that we can’t control people and some shop owners trying to salvage their goods. They are disturbing us a lot. The second challenge is getting enough water after exhausting the ones in our trucks. We have to go as far as 30km before we can get water,” Olayiwola said.
Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) Lagos State Branch Secretary Olakunke Lasisi, said his team treated five persons that were injured.
“We have treated five so far and one actually fainted and was resuscitated. He was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). (CPR is an emergency life-saving procedure that is done when someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped. This CPR combines rescue breathing and chest compressions.) He recovered and we equally have some others with minor cuts. They have equally been treated. Those injured were trying to save some of their goods and we thank God that no life was lost so far,” Lasisi said.