Burnt 14 Times, Corporal Walusimbi Still Wants To Save More Lives

5244 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
At just 31years of age, Elly Walusimbi can no-longer perform the duty he loves that involves rescuing people from burning buildings or even pit latrines.

At just  31 years of age, Elly Walusimbi can no longer perform the duty he loves: rescuing people from burning buildings or even pit latrines.

Corporal Walusimbi joined the Uganda Police Force seven years ago and having signed to work anywhere. He was posted to the Police Fire brigade.

Behind a charred face and fingers, loss of hearing in his left ear, is a man who continues to yearn to save another human being from another fire but unfortunately the nature of Walusimbi’s injuries have limited his work to training the public in fire fighting.

Walusimbi joined the police fire brigade after a nine months police basic training course and had to endure a four months training in fire fighting before he was deployed.

Since then Walusimbi has been burnt 14 times while putting out fires among which is the 2006 Uchumi supermarket fire where he was burnt while trying to rescue a friend and a child at another.

However, it was the March 5, 2010 fire at Kigunga near Mukono that left both his hands with permanent scars and superficial injuries.

While working as an exhibitor for the fire brigade during the East African Police Chief Conference that ended at Speke Resort Munyonyo last month, Walusimbi’s scars could not be missed by anybody.

Today, Walusimbi says it was just by God’s mercy that he is alive. He says the fire started when the fuel tanker that overturned and blocked the Mukono – Jinja road was being towed and it developed sparks.

Walusimbi was among the fire brigade crew that rushed to the scene and immediately started chasing away people trying to siphon fuel.

Walusimbi and two of his friends Justin Eniku and Thomas Onakale succeeded in chasing the public to a safe distance, but remained too close to the fuel tanker. When it exploded, they were engulfed in the fire.

The fire burnt his head and hands that were not protected. The trio had to crawl out of the fire to safety. Walusimbi was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit of Mulago hospital where he spent one month before he was discharged.

During his time in hospital, Walusimbi only received 100,000 shillings from the Uganda Police Force to buy drugs though up to now his medical bill has stretched to over 7million shillings.

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Walusimbi says that he used up all his savings and is just starting afresh hoping in future he can relocate his family from the police fire brigade headquarters to a house of his own.

When asked what he thinks of his fire fighting job, Walusimbi says there times when he wonders whether this is the only job he can do, but he is always motivated by pulling another person from a building.

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Once, Walusimbi responded to a fire in Katwe in a storied building where a child had been trapped the mother tried to rescue her son and failed.

When Walusimbi got there, he had to enter the house but it when coming out he had to remove his protective gear and cover the child with it. He was burnt in the process. Shortly after, the ceiling came crashing down but the child had been whisked to safety.

This father of two says it’s these risky ventures that make him feel he is living a worthy life after saving another person's life.

Though Walusimbi has put his life on the line to save those in danger, his bravely is yet to attract the attention of his bosses to fly him out of the country to receive proper treatment which was recommended by Dr. Rose Alenyo of the burns unit at Mulago hospital. The Inspector General of Police Lt. Gen. Kale Kayihura ordered that Walusimbi is flown out for specialised treatment but he is yet to be taken for treatment.

Today Walusimbi has to smear his fingers with vaseline not to become dry and sometimes has to wear pressure gloves on the hands and face to shield them from direct heat. Walusimbi says his only problem is that the grafted skin has started growing and it need to be operated on before it grows into webs and further complicate his condition.

The Director Police Commissariat, Asuman Mugenyi said police officers like all employees can apply for workman’s compensation through the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social development. He says there are officers who will ascertain the degree of damage and they are paid.

Mugenyi says the challenge police has is that some of their officers do not know that there is workman’s compensation.

According to Mugenyi, the Uganda Police Force provides treatment but where the extent of the burns is grave they are supposed to seek medical treatment abroad through the National Medical Board.