Nairobi County is set to build two new fire stations through Sh1.131 billion Belgium government financing.
The city has only one functioning public fire station based on Tom Mboya Street built in 1906 despite massive growth in population.
The county is also allowed to use the East Africa Breweries Limited station in Ruaraka on Thika Road and has another station in Industrial Area hosting disused fire engines.
The cash will finance fire-fighting equipment and services including 20 fire engines and safety gear for 300 officers.
The county’s fire department has been ridiculed in the past for faulty equipment, arriving at fire scenes late, running out of water and having difficulties putting out fires in high-rise buildings as was the case at Kimathi House in April last year.
“This is the first step towards a more effective fire-fighting ability in Nairobi,” said Belgian Ambassador Bart Ouvry during the signing of the agreement at City Hall Thursday.
The deal includes 35 per cent in grant and a 65 per cent 20-year interest-free loan. Currently, the fire department has two functional fire engines against the city’s population of about four million.
During the ceremony Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero disclosed plans are underway to increase staff through recruitment of about 200 fire personnel in the next few weeks. Currently, the department has about 100 fire fighters and 40 support staff.
The equipment to be sourced from Belgian utility automaker Somati Vehicles is expected in the city in the next six months.
“This equipment is based on a study by institutions in Belgium that determined the required resources and equipment for the city,” said Dr Kidero.
Belgian experts are also expected to train Nairobi’s fire fighters on response to emergencies.
The county has had to rely on private fire fighters as well as army personnel and the National Youth Service whenever a big fire breaks out. At one point earlier in the year, the county had no functional fire engine leaving the city to depend on the private sector players and the army.
“Given the experience in the last few months, this equipment will go a long way in helping us combat problems like we had at the airport (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport) and Westgate,” added Dr Kidero.
It is unclear where the two new fire stations will be built but the more populous Eastlands stand a better chance.
According to Kenya National Fire Brigades Association secretary-general Francis Liech, the two most likely sites for location of the new fires stations are Dandora and Kawangware.