Slum fire, fires


Slum fires
(Swahili : moto (singular) mioto (plural))

***** Location: Kenya
***** Season: Topic
***** Category: Humanity


The urban slums of Kenya are highly prone to fires.
This is due to a cumulation of causes.

Each homestead has as its main focus the jiko, the fireplace or brazier, where food is cooked and heat is generated in the cold season. The jiko can be the traditional three stones, with firewood or maize cobs used as fuel. In the urban areas, it will more commonly be a brazier using charcoal, or a small metal cooker using kerosene oil.

Light is produced by hurricane lamps burning kerosene. Most homes keep a small supply of kerosene for their lamps and jiko.

Houses are small, and many combustible materials are kept within close range of any of these open fires. People, possibly with trailing clothes, move around the vicinity, and sometimes children play too near the fireplaces. During the cold season, nights are chilly, and there can be a tendency to leave fires to burn themselves out slowly while people are already falling asleep.

Ironing is done with charcoal irons, using live coals.

Many Kenyans are smokers, and careless handling of cigarettes can also cause fires.

Some small businesses use open fires -- maize roasters, fish fryers and mandazi bakers. These fires are normally well supervised and in any case extinguished as night falls.

Slum homes may also be threatened by external circumstances. These are fires starting in their neighbours' homes, fires due to sparking electricity cables, and (in one terrible incident in September 2011) a fire at the Kenya Pipeline in the Sinai section of Lunga Lunga slum. The huge oil pipeline, which ran through the slum, sprung a leak, and the slum dwellers tried to catch the spilling oil. It caught fire and exploded, killing and burning many. Some people jumped into the burning Ngong River to quench the flames, and many drowned there.

Text and photo © Isabelle Prondzynski


Some terrible pictures here of the Sinai fire (explosion at the Kenya Pipeline)
source : www.flickr.com

And a video of the scene :
source : http://www.youtube.com


Written in August 2012

About a month ago, fire broke out in one of the houses in the Tujisaidie community in Soweto (in the Kayole suburb of Nairobi), and everything that the family owned was destroyed. Fortunately, no one was injured and the fire did not spread to neighbouring plots.

The community's youth group, Tumaini, was at that time welcoming a group of British visitors. Abandoning their guests to respond to the call for help, the youth ran to the site of the fire and, together with the neighbours, worked hard to put it out. This involved carrying water over quite a distance, as the pipes were dry at this time. The visitors helped as best they could, carrying jerricans of water in a long chain from the Nursery School water tank, until the flames had been quenched.

For the next day, they had planned a programme of calls to several projects in the community. But the visitors discussed the matter overnight and decided that helping to rebuild the burnt house was much more important. And so, they each contributed whatever funds they could, so that building materials could be bought, and the rest of the day was spent putting up a new corrugated iron house.

The rest of the community also got together. Everyone who could, donated some clothes, some pots and pans, a blanket and other essential items, to give the affected family a new start. Slum families support each other... and each of them had probably been helped by others already, at some other time...

Isabelle Prondzynski

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


as his fire crackles
there is laughter and chat --
maize roaster

last rays
of the red sunset --
maize roaster’s fire

evening cool --
the fish fryer’s fire
glows from afar

Isabelle Prondzynski


updates of fire
in Soweto on Facebook --
tears on my face

the fire --
Soweto goes dark
once again

still standing --
burnt electricity poles
telling the story

black smoke
engulfs the Soweto sunset --
a rush of helpers

water water
everyone calls --
flames and smoke

Antony Njoroge


Fire in Soweto, August 2012

fire outbreak --
a woman cries pleading
for quick help

rescue group --
the watching crowd
moves away

fire outbreak --
black smoke makes its way
to the atmosphere

~ Brian Mulando

singing a song
from a blackened Golden Bells --
smouldering remains

dancing smoke
from a burnt mattress --
village fire

~ James Bundi

On Saturday at dusk, after the fire tragedy that also destroyed a transformer and left a section of Soweto in darkness for three days, while we stood by watching the Kenya Power and Lighting Company staff fixing the transformer:

shooting star--
we mistake its bright streak
for power return

Patrick Wafula, August 22, 2012


thick smoke --
my eyes are drenched
with tears

she wails
on seeing burnt bodies --
Sinai inferno

oil floats on
sparkling sewage --
Ngong River

an injured boy
is lifted onto a stretcher --
rescue mission

Sinai heat --
flames bubbling in
the smokey sky

Sinai tragedy --
oil fumes linger
in the air

a pastor leads
the bereaved in prayer --
Sinai fire

Tom Mboya Hall --
a pile of burnt mabati
at the entrance

bereaved parade --
a photographer identifies
an impostor

~ Andrew Otinga
(on the Sinai Pipeline tragedy mentioned above)


fire tragedy --
a crying child asking
for her mother

Sinai fire --
displaced children
crying for food

Authors unknown


August cold --
a maize roaster pokes
his smouldering fire

Caleb Mutua


on a jam
dusty matatus on a stand still -
Nakumatt blaze

Nakumatt blaze was a great supermarket fire in 2009.

Siboko Yamame

. Matatu minibus .

Related words

***** Jiko (brazier) and makaa (charcoal)

***** WKD : Fire (kaji)
kigo for all winter in Japan


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