The global furore over the emerging coronavirus pandemic has overshadowed some other of the world’s biggest issues like climate change, a problem which has in recent times been further worsened by bush fires and explosions.
Both problems are still massive threats to human existence, it’s just that one kills faster than the other.
Nigeria has recorded countless cases of fire outbreaks in recent years: fuel tanker explosions on the highway, pipeline vandalism, mysterious market fires – 9 of which occurred in 2019, all leading to loss of lives and properties.
These cases have become so frequent that they don’t seem to surprise Nigerians anymore.
But when these disasters happen, people’s lives are often left at the mercy of firefighters.
Growing up in my country, I noticed how these first responders were continuously maligned for display of unprofessionalism in salvaging such disasters, when the blame ought to be directed to the government for not providing an enabling environment.
It would take many more years for me to understand their struggles. I had befriended a member of the fire brigade and not too long after that I admitted that firefighters in Nigeria don’t get the credit they deserve.
A fireman can see more in a day than an average person would see in his entire life. They can feel guilty if they save 99 lives instead of 100 and blame themselves throughout their life time for that one life lost.
Of course, it would be foolhardy to compare the Nigerian Fire service to those in Europe or America who have better structure and funding.
However, they all share similar risks and concerns. A 2015 study published by the Journal of Emergency Medical Services found in a survey of more than 4,000 firefighters and paramedics they reported contemplating suicide 10 times more than the average American adult. They face strain in their marriages due to irregular work schedules among others.
Not so many people tell their stories, so I decided to do so by making this podcast. It captures the hidden lives of fire responders told by two members of Dublin Fire Brigade.