By Ignatius Chukwu
The number of those who have the efficiency and world class capacity to confront fire disasters in Port Harcourt has increased by one. Now, Belemaoil which prides itself as a defender of the oil communities has delivered what it terms world-class fire fighting force made up of three American-made fire engines and 33 certified fire-fighters. The Belemaoil Producing Limited (BPL) says it is a world-class indigenous but independent exploration and production (E&P) company operating in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria with a host of strong partners across the globe. Belemaoil seems eager to deepen its interests and activities in the industry: gas, power, refining, and explorations, all aimed at delivering more value in the hydrocarbon industry.
Now, Belama seems eager to beef up the safety status of the Garden City by adding to the ability of the oil city to repel fire disasters and cut down loss of lives and property. The company also seems determined to beef up the city, after all, it is in the fore front of pressuring fleeing businesses to return, pleading with ambassadors of Western nations to lead the way back.
Belema began by acquiring fire fighting engines from the US. The company followed up by bringing in a top rated fire training expert from North America, Gary Eve, to set up a squad drawn from indigenous human resource base. Today, the Belema fire force has graduated and certified 33 fire fighters who have conquered the phobia created by raging fire. They have acquired the confidence and skill to confront any level of fire disaster in the city with additional skills to serve as life support experts and community heroes, according to the Executive Vice President of Belemaoil, Rosemary Asiegbu.
On Monday morning, June 11, 2018, a mock fire fighting exercise was staged for media men and other onlookers at the fast-developing Woji Creek now turned Belema Jetty, along the new road and bridge that extended Odili Road to Akon Road area. Fire ball s went up, and the the trucks arrived in blazing sirens with swift efficiency. The fighters created a formation, pulled out the hose, and followed what experts called global best practices by keeping the hose hip level. They tracked the fire and gained penetration, according to Eve.
In a matter of moments, the fire began deceleration, sickened and then died. Applause followed! The chief fire training officer, grinning all over, explained the steps and procedures that took place to newsmen. He said what was important was the discipline to follow international procedures and standards in putting out the fire.
Eve said fire outbreaks have categories; street fire, garages, high-rise building fires, and other sophisticated types. The Belema Unit has been certified to handle most of them. Whichever type, the basics are the same and good water supply system is very important; professionalism is crucial. Some of the skills needed include how to hold the hose, the hose level which is the hip, and penetration.
Eve said; “The standards are international and I am satisfied with the time it took them to put out the fire. Going forward, from what I hear, some of these guys would have to go for further training, probably abroad. What they have got now is basic. There are other levels of certification still available to achieve. I am a certified fire instructor in North America and I am satisfied with what they have learnt and performed here.”
One of the certified graduands, Gibson Okuroma, admitted that he and his teammates have been drilled hard in the basic knowledge of fire fighting. “We are competent to handle fire on the basic level, whether the instructor is there or not. We have overcome the fears of a fireman.” On communication gadgets, he said they have also been taught how to communicate even if gadgets were not immediately available.
His colleague, Kalabari-born Job Deinbo, said the team has been thoroughly trained by Eve and that they were prepared to put the skills into practice. “I did not know anything in this direction before, but now, I know what to do, even if anybody goes down in my presence. If fire erupts anywhere, by the basic training we have got, we can handle it.”
Apparently excited by the fire-fighting proceedings and the emergence of a top grade fire-fighting unit in the emerging oil giant, Belema’s Executive Vice President, Rosemary Asiegbu, declared the Belema Fire Unit as a milestone for the company. She explained the journey so far, saying TDI Global, a Canada-based company, trained the team very well. “Fire fighting is a serious job because you will be alert all the time, even when you are on leave. This is because your services can be called upon any moment. You have to train to be fit at all times.”
The EVP went on: “Fire fighting is also a multifaceted job because it transcends fighting fire. You can be called upon to deliver a woman of a baby, or you may need to jump down from six floors. It’s about any emergency.”
She described the 33 fire fighters as the strength of the city because they would have to act like heroes in moments of emergency. She said Belemaoil takes the safety of the community (City) with the greatest seriousness and that it was the reason why the Founder/President did not cut corners in approving training programmes. “You were given the best. Belemaoil is the first indigenous oil company to implement Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) package at all levels especially on the immediate environment.”
Asiegbu went on: “We are not like the others. We have a commitment to the wellbeing of any community where we have a footprint. People around must know that we have a fire unit. Whenever there is fire around the community (Port Harcourt), people must know that the Belemaoil Fire Unit is ready and able. We will be there to save lives.’
She said Belemaoil was pushing its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by the fire unit too, and at the same time empowering 33 persons in the process. “Your training will continue and your certification will continue. You alone will decide how far you want to go with Belemaoil in this aspect. The limelight is waiting for you.”
The chief trainer presented the trainees to the Belemaoil management for their certificates, having been certified on the basics of fire fighting including hose management, tracking, safety, etc. He said more training would be needed for them to attain higher levels. He also talked of the need for more equipment and more facilities.
The graduands seemed highly touched by their master and one of them stood out to openly declare; “We will make Gary Eve proud. We won’t fail Belemaoil either. Let Belema prosper more so we can realise our ambitions.”
The management seemed happy with the introduction of such a sensitive facility in the oil city. The director of Engineering and Production, Mufaa Welsh, said; “The founder/president, Jack-Rich Tein Jr, though unavoidably absent, has demonstrated his keenness and desire to see youths of the Niger Delta transform and take responsibility. “He dreamed about it for long and approved everything needed. He has a passion for the success of this unit. Fire is man’s worst enemy and must be treated with a lot of seriousness. This underlines the significance of the flag-off of the Belema Fire Unit in Port Harcourt this day”.