Property estimated to worth millions of naira were at the weekend lost to an inferno that gutted part of the Osisioma Ngwa facility of a renowned brewery company; Guinness Nigeria PLC Brewery along Unity Garden Estate located in Osisioma Ngwa LGA, Aba, Abia State.
Until the time of filing this report, men of the Abia State Fire Service were yet to come out with an official statement over the cause of the fire incident.
Sources within the brewery and the fire service said that they are suspecting that the fire started in a bush sharing fence with the factory.
Efforts made by the combined team of Abia State Fire Service personnel from Aba and Umuahia to stop the fire from affecting other parts of the facility proved abortive as the fire quickly spread to stacks of wooden pallets and plastic bottle cases stored on the brewery’s premises making it difficult for the fire fighters to handle.
The Umuahia and Aba fire fighters were however said to have prevented the fire from getting to a nearby pipeline belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC).
Mr. Okezie Uche, the head of Abia State Fire Service, Aba corroborated the suspicion that the fire started from bushes behind the brewery.
Uche said that the damage could have been lessened if inflammable materials like crates which helped in fueling the fire were kept away from the fence.
He said: “We got the information around 1pm and by then, the fire has become too much. We did our best and when it was still looking wild, I called for a backup and the team from Umuahia came.
“The NNPC Aba Depot assisted us with foam chemical compound which enabled us to subdue the fire. What they have inside are highly flammable materials and we are doing our best.
“If you go inside the factory you’ll see that the housekeeping is very bad. So, I think it might have come from behind their premises and unknown to them it spread rapidly.
“That’s why we are telling people to be very careful while burning at this period of time because fire easily spreads. We also advise companies to practice good housekeeping and make prompt calls when incidents like this start not when it escalates.
“When we came I saw them using fire extinguisher on a wildfire like this, how can someone do such? It’s not the right thing to do. They only called us when the fire must have overpowered them. That’s not how to do things
“The biggest danger today is that the fire was approaching the NNPC pipeline which made my men to place high focus on preventing another disaster from occurring.
Eric Otuonye, the station officer in charge of security at the brewery described the fire incident as one that has brought monumental loss to the company.
“It was around 11am in the morning that we noticed some smoke from the bushes behind. And before we could get there, the fire is already on the crates and you know that the crates are flammable.
“Fire services from Aba and Umuahia have being battling it for several hours. Companies around us like Clover Paint, Geometric Power and NNPC put hands together to help. We also did our best with the little firefighter we had.
“Since 12noon to this time (6:15pm) we have being fighting this fire and I believe it has gotten to a certain chemical which is causing this heavy smell that’s scaring people. So many sympathizers came to help, but the smoke is too much.
“If nothing is done, this fire could get worst in the night. We are suspecting it came from outside, but our interest is on stopping it. To me what is consumed here by this fire is worth almost a billion by my own rating because I know what we have here.
“The company shutdown since last year July and said they’ll start soon, but we are yet to see them resume, but now we don’t know what’s next.”
Stanley George, a passerby said that he and over a hundred persons who tried to help at the early stage of the fire were prevented from entering the premises by security guards on duty, maybe on the suspicion that they could cart away some important property of the company in the process.
George lamented that if the security guards on duty had allowed the passersby who were willing to help at the early stage of the fire, the situation could have been brought under control.
“The security men here stopped us from assisting them at the early stages of the fire. When they noticed it was beyond them, they now opened the gate for everyone to enter and by then it was too late. We were over a hundred persons. We did our best anyway.”
A senior police officer from Osisioma Police Division in an interview at the scene of the fire incident said the police got the information and then alerted the fire service who came to help.
He said the fire service and men of the Nigeria Police in Osisioma and Mopol 55 were all on duty to ensure there was enough security and to avoid some people taking advantage of the situation to loot properties of the establishment.
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He added that they made sure that the pipeline portion of the area were secured and saved earlier to prevent further disastrous outcome in the area.