Goods and property worth millions of naira were destroyed in a fire that ravaged the Okujagu butchery market in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Among the properties damaged in the inferno, there were at least ten houses in the area.
It was revealed that the fire was caused by suspicious urchins in the area, who were burning substances and disregarding the remains.
But when the fire started, they joined other residents in trying to put it out, and many others went to their homes to save their belongings.
Meanwhile, one of the firefighters of the federal fire service who attended with his colleagues following an emergency call was beaten to the core by angry youths who were angry that the firefighters did not turn up in time to put out the fire.
The Commander of the Federal Fire Service in Rivers State, Abdullahi Alfa Audu, who confirmed the attack to newsmen, said the youths are angry because his men did not arrive early to put out the fire.
He said: “You know the call of fire and as usual we show up to deal with it. Upon arrival, we have already positioned our vehicle to begin fighting the fire. All these champions started stoning and beating.
“They (firefighters) jumped into their vehicle to move now. In the process of moving, one of the firefighters fell. When he fell, they (the Kapulos) held him and started beating him with machetes.
“He had a deep cut on his hand. We had to take him to the hospital. Then they sewed up his hand and gave him a few pints of blood.”
Audu said that not knowing the cause of the fire was dangerous because the actions of the suspected miscreants had prevented the fire from being extinguished and an inventory of the incident.
“What we’re doing is supplementing the efforts of the state fire department. But since we’re not allowed to do our job, we can’t stand back and find out the extent of the fire’s damage.
“Life first. You must save your life first. We were not the ones who caused the fire. We were only going to help. So these guys saw that we were late, they weren’t the ones who called us.
“Even before we got to the scene of the fire, they don’t know what we encountered, and they are mobbing, trying to vandalize the vehicles and injuring the firefighters,” he said.
When contacted the spokesperson of the state police command, Grace Iringe-Koko, said she would meet him at the nearest police station and get back to our correspondent.
Iringe-Koko, the Superintendent of Police, was yet to comment to our reporter at the time of filing this report.