By Bose Adelaja
Number 43 Salami Street or Ademisoye’s House as it is more popularly known in the Mafoluku area of Lagos easily attracted attention not necessarily because of its appearance or size but due to the fact that it was one of the oldest buildings in the area. Indeed, it was considered a kind of landmark.
In the expansive compound were two buildings: the one at the rear was home to four tenants, while the other one was occupied by the landlord, Pa T. Adamiloye and his entire family. That was the case until Monday August 11, 2014, when fire gutted the house, throwing all the families living there into mourning and rendered them homeless.
It was particularly more tragic for Mr and Mrs Patrick, who for 14 years were occupants of a two-bedroom flat there. The tragic incident of that fateful Monday sent two of their children to their early graves.
Mr. Patrick and his wife, as gathered, had early in the morning of that fateful day left home for their respective places of work, leaving one of their children, Ada, to take charge of their flat. Ada, a mother of two, one a seven months old and another a two-year-old, had in addition to her own children been looking after her two-year-old nephew left in her care by the grand parents.
After feeding the kids and taking them to bed at about 8pm, Ada had lit a candle and locked up the flat. She reportedly left the house in the company of her friends.
According to a neighbour, Madam Seeke Adamolekun, Ada was relaxing with her friends at a spot near the bus-stop when an alarm was raised that ‘’a building on Salami street is on fire’’. Ada was said to have left her friends to go and see what was happening. On getting home, she discovered sympathisers had filled up her compound with some of them helping to salvage some belongings, while others were ransacking the buildings.
That was when it dawned on her that the candle she lit and left in the flat had set the entire building on fire and spread to other apartments. The top floor of the building was razed, particularly the two-bedroom flat on the top floor housing the deceased children and their family.
It was later gathered from sympathisers that the seven months old child was rescued by a ten-year-old boy who found his way into the flat through an opening. Unfortunately, the brave chap, who sustained a minor injury, could not rescue the two-year-old kids as the fire escalated before he could do so. However, the boy was able to raise the alarm which attracted other neighbours to the scene before a call was put across the State fire services.
When Vanguard Metro arrived the compound, some of the occupants of the compound were busy lamenting the death of the two kids and the fact that they have been rendered homeless. Meantime, the affected building had been put under lock and key by officials of the local council who also instructed the occupants to find alternative accommodations.
A teenager, perceived to be the landlord’s son, also joined in appealing to the tenants to take the situation in good faith. ‘’Daddy has decided to leave everything to God. Meanwhile, I appeal to you all to find an alternative accommodation till the building will be fixed…’’.
One of the occupants, a septuagenarian, who simply gave her name as Madam Gladys, said she arrived home that Monday, after being away for three months visiting one of her children who gave birth in May. ‘’I arrived yesterday and was very tired. I was fast asleep when I heard a distress call. Immediately, I called my daughter who assured me the situation would soon be under control. But before you knew it, street urchins had taken advantage of the situation to steal some of my belongings,’’ she said.
An occupant at the compound who pleaded anonymity said the Patricks were members of a popular pentecostal church at Ijesha and blamed “their care free attitude” for the tragedy. ‘’Why on earth did she lock up the flat after lighting a candle? It was her carefree attitude that caused the death of those kids,’’ he lamented.
Director, Lagos State Fire Services, Razaq Fadipe, confirmed the development to Vanguard Metro, adding that the fire service was not called on time to put out the fire.
“We got a distress call around 8:38p.m. that Monday and when we got there, we discovered that it was a storey building that was on fire. The top floor has a two-bedroom apartment and four single rooms, while the ground floor has a two-bedroom and six single rooms. They did not call us on time, that is as soon as the fire started,” he said.
Fadipe confirmed that the fire was indeed caused by a candle which was lit by a member of the family occupying one of the flats. He said two water tanks were used in putting out the fire, adding that the Isolo and Ilupeju Fire Stations were involved in putting out the fire.
The Fire Service boss appealed to residents to desist from using candle in their houses as it could be dangerous. He said that they should instead purchase cheap rechargeable lamps that would be more useful to them at night.
He also appealed to landlords to ensure that tenants do not use candles in their houses in order to prevent fire disaster.