The Out-land Community was a scene of grief and disbelief, following a fire incident that gutted the roof of the Benson Hospital where patients were being administered oxygen, surgery and other medical treatment, along with others who had gone to visit friends and relatives or to seek medical attention.
When family members and relatives heard that the hospital was on fire, they came crying and running, with some even attempting to rescue family members but were prevented by onlookers in order to avoid injury to their persons.
Youths of the community converged on the scene in order to save the hospital from being destroyed because, according to them, it is one of the biggest health facilities in the community that is accessible to residents.
They used water from available water wells and other water sources in an attempt to douse the fire until the arrival of the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS).
When the LNFS arrived, youths who had gone to help extinguish the blaze started throwing stones, water and empty buckets at them in frustration because, according to them, that the fire service wasted time in responding to such an emergency involving the lives of so many people.
“We had already cut the fire off when the LNFS came to take the glory, which we will not allow to happen. This is a national hospital that can attend to many people in the nation, so if there is a fire outbreak and we called them [LNFS] they have to respond quickly to save lives and medical equipment,” the youth shouted as they threw stones from the top of the building at the firefighters.
Pinky Wolo, who had gone for a health certificate, said while awaiting service, a nurse informed her and others to leave because there was a fire outbreak at the hospital.
Ms. Wolo said before leaving the grounds of the hospital, she saw nurses bringing out patients and other medical items out of the hospital to nearby homes in order to save them from being destroyed by the fire.
“The nurses were confused so they started throwing beds, chairs and other materials through the windows of the hospital. I later saw nurses bringing 6 children and two older men, who were being administered oxygen treatment, to nearby homes for rescue,” she said.
Alex K. Dickson, Director of LNFS, said they have not discovered the source of the fire, but he expressed regret about the incident.
He said it is unfortunate that angry youths stoned the vehicle of the LNFS, which resulted into two firefighters being injured, leaving the LNFS car damaged.
Dickson said the youth’s action was out of emotion, because they had no understanding about what the LNFS had to go through before arriving at the scene.
Dickson said LNFS did not receive an emergency call on its hotline but several calls from individuals, which they needed to confirm before getting prepared in order to arrive at the fire incident on Du-port Road.
“People must start to make use of the emergency number, which is 114; besides, when we are on our way to fight a fire, commercial drivers make it difficult for us to reach the place on time. Usually, they refuse to leave the way for us,” he said.
He said Liberians must be educated about such difficulties the fire service goes through when leaving their office to get to various locations.
Benson Hospital authorities refused to comment on the incident because, according to them, they have not discovered the cause of the fire. The hospital called an ambulance from the John F. Kennedy Medical Center (JFK) to refer its patients that had been admitted.