The Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) has dismissed claims by the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) that all the fire hydrants in the Central Business District of Accra were sealed during last Monday's fire outbreak at Makola.
Rather, it said, all the 70 hydrants in the CBD (11 at Makola) were functioning, with water flowing in them, and so it could not be blamed for the fire service's inability to fight the fire effectively.
The Accra Regional Manager of the GWCL, Mr Emmanuel Johnson, said this at a press conference in Accra yesterday in reaction to the GNFS's press conference last Tuesday that since 1992 the fire hydrants had not be working.
At a media interaction last Tuesday, the Chief Fire Officer (CFO), Mr Edwin Ekow Blankson, had claimed that fire hydrants within the CBD of Accra had been sealed since 1992.
The situation, according to the service, had made fire-fighting and rescue missions very difficult for the service.
Again, he said, efforts by the GNFS to have the hydrants reopened by the GWCL had proved futile.
But, in his reaction, Mr Johnson said the Accra East Region of the GWCL was manned by competent staff who worked day and night to provide water for citizens within its catchment area, adding that the GWCL would, therefore, not accept any false accusations from the GNFS.
"The GWCL has 11 functioning fire hydrants at vantage locations, including the premises of the GNFS within the CBD. It has 70 fire hydrants in the CBD alone.
"There is no non-functioning fire hydrant within the CBD, and for that matter we do not see the need for the GNFS to request for hydrants to be reopened," he said.
On the issue of water pressure, he said once there was water in the hydrants, personnel of the GNFS could have used their equipment to suck it, no matter the level or pressure.
On the GNFS’s engagement with the company, Mr Johnson said the GWCL did not have any records of the GNFS ever engaging it to rectify any challenge in the CBD in respect of fire hydrants, as was stated by the GNFS.
Moreover, he said, the GWCL had no knowledge of any back-up arrangements with private water providers.
Mr Johnson said on July 5, 2021 when the building at Makola was on fire, the “GWCL was surprised to see fire tenders of the GNFS going to the Accra East Regional Office to fetch water to combat the fire, when there was water flowing within the whole CBD”.
He said on the day of the incident, four fire tenders made a number of trips from the filling points at the Accra East Regional Office.
He gave the breakdown as FS 723, three trips; FS 519, three trips; FS 536, two trips, and FS 729, one trip.
The following day, he said, another set of trips were made by three fire tenders — FS 729, two trips; FS 727, one trip, and FS 519, one trip.
“Even on Wednesday, July 7, 2021, some fire tenders were still fetching water from the Accra East Regional Office to fight what they claimed were pockets of fire at the place,” he said.
The Regional Manager said the company had, through several engagements with the GNFS, urged the latter to caution its personnel to refrain from siphoning water from hydrants and selling same to members of the public, stressing that “it is public knowledge that the fire tenders which are supposed to be used specifically for fire fighting are being abused”.
“We have incidents littered across the length and breadth of the country of officials of the GNFS selling water to the public. We have even complained to their officials about this. Aside from that, some of their officials have come to our office to volunteer information to the GWCL on the matter,” he said.
Mr Johnson said upon similar allegations against the GWCL in 2018, the GNFS requested for an audit of all the fire hydrants in the country, so that, together with the Ministry of the Interior, the GWCL could have the faulty ones repaired.
Till date, he said, the GWCL was still waiting for a response from the GNFS on the audit.
Adding his voice to the issue, the Managing Director of the GWCL, Dr Clifford Abdallah Braimah, wondered why the GNFS would come out publicly to make such serious allegations against the company when the heads of the two agencies had a good working relationship.
He said the company was not blaming the GNFS but only responding to the falsehood put out by the service.