By Fredrick Okopie
THE fire ragedÂ unabated for a long time, especially as the fire fighting agencies and sympathisers could do little to bring it under control. And by the time it had spent its rage, properties worth over N50 millionÂ had been razed and destroyed.
This was the tragedy that, last week, befell some residentsÂ at Ifelodun Street and Canal Road at Ajegunle in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government.
The fire which started few minutes to one oâ€™clock from one of the rooms of a building in Canal Road spread to other parts of the sprawling neighbourhood, affecting mostly those living adjacent Ifelodun Street.Â But happily enough its possible spread to other houses was halted by a fence erected by an Apostolic church.
But for this fence it could have extended to more streets, because all the houses were close to each other and built with planks, a factor which, together with the common use of generators in the area, was said to have aided its rapid spread and scale of destruction.
As the inferno was spreading from the Canal Road end, residents at the opposite end were able to rescue a few of their belongings.
The incident naturally attracted a large crowd of sympathisers and curious onlookers. Also conspicuous by their large presence when Vanguard Metro visited were the ubiquitous social miscreants popularly known as area boys who also assisted in fighting the fire. Students from various schools flooded the Sunny Foam Close leading to the scene of the fire.
Men from the Lagos State Fire Service and Safety came with three water tanks. Their intervention was said to have reduced the damage to some surrounding buildings. Policemen from the Ajeromi Ifelodun Station had a tough time of it controlling the surging crowd of onlookers and preventing criminal elements from stealing.
Vanguard Metroâ€™s investigation could not immediately establish the cause of the fire outbreak. Many people, including those directly affected, were not ready to speak on the accident.
But a woman in her late 40s was over heard saying that the fire started in one of the rooms belonging a man who bolted immediately he realised that the fire had got out of control.
A resident, Mr. Samuel Oji, told Vanguard Metro he was observing his afternoon rest when his aged mother woke him up to inform that the next building was on fire.
This was how he put it: â€œThe fire started in the next building from ours occupied by a guy that sells meat at Alaba market. He was cooking inside his room when suddenly there was a fire outbreak. But instead of screaming for help so that people will know and probably come to his rescue he refused. He thought he could put out the fire on his own, but he couldnâ€™t do it. By thenÂ the fire has gotten to his roof; from his room it spread to other rooms. That was when he decided to run away, aware that the fire had got out of control.
â€œThank God for my aged mother who was around; if not nobody knows what could have happened. Some guys were called to rescue her and I took her to about six blocks away from hereâ€.
Mr. Oji also revealed that though no life was lost in the incident, most of theÂ 12Â buildings in the area were gutted by the fire. He puts the monetary value of properties destroyed to aboutÂ N60 million.
As he was speaking with Vanguard Metro,Â the owner of a BMW car with registration number AH282MUN which was partly affected by the fire was staring ruefully at the charred remains of some vital documents which was the only thing he could salvage. For some reasons, the man was visibly angry that Mr. Oji was speaking to the press.Â â€œWhat does he want, will the press bring back myÂ burnt certificates and documents?â€ he asked rhetorically, adding: â€œYou better leave this place before I bath you with this dirty waterâ€.
There was also comic relief at some point as a stray cat was mobbed to death by the area boys who were trying to put out the fire. As soon as the cat was killed, one of the boys shouted in Yoruba,Â â€˜obe!â€™, meaning soup. And they took the dead cat away, possibly to prepare it for eating.
The area boys also did not spare a pot of rice which was rescued from the fire. They descended on it, ate up everything within sight and washed it down with water they got from a fire fighting vehicle.