Entebbe International Airport, Uganda’s primary global entry point, became engulfed in flames on Tuesday, September 12, 2023, as a fire erupted at the DAS Warehouse adjacent to the airport. The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) swiftly confirmed the incident, issuing a statement shortly after midnight.
According to UCAA’s official statement, “An incident involving a fire outbreak occurred at the DAS Warehouse located in the vicinity of Entebbe International Airport on Tuesday, September 12, 2023. A joint team of fire-fighting services is engaging to contain the blazing fire, and the exact cause of the fire will be investigated.”
This unfortunate occurrence has raised concerns about the imperative need to bolster fire and emergency services at this pivotal airport, given its vital role in facilitating travel and cargo transport. Remarkably, this is not the airport’s inaugural brush with fire-related crises. In 2021, a conflagration erupted in the airport’s fuel tanks area, inducing panic among travelers and airport personnel.
At the time, UCAA attributed the event to routine maintenance on fuel tank 4, which involved draining residual fuel segments with a diesel-powered pump. The pump’s drainage tube dislodged, causing fuel leakage and igniting the fire.
This recent fire episode occurred just a week following the dispatch of a delegation from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to conduct a comprehensive audit of Entebbe International Airport. The primary aim of this audit is to evaluate Uganda’s adherence to ICAO standards and recommended practices.
ICAO, a United Nations specialized agency, plays a pivotal role in harmonizing global air navigation principles and practices, as well as fostering the development of international air transport to ensure its safe and orderly expansion.
During their visit, the ICAO team convened with President Museveni at Commonwealth Resort, Munyonyo. Although the reasons behind Works Minister Gen Katumba Wamala leading the auditors in a meeting with President Museveni before the audit remain unclear, the President welcomed the delegation and pledged Uganda’s unwavering commitment to the audit process.
President Museveni underscored the need for the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority to be receptive to improvements and learning. The audit will encompass an exhaustive evaluation spanning legislation, organization, licensing, operations, airworthiness, accident investigation, air navigation services, and aerodromes.
Gen. Katumba Wamala expressed optimism that a favorable audit outcome would instill confidence in Uganda’s airspace among stakeholders. He emphasized that it could pave the way for Uganda Airlines to gain access to airspace in destinations like the UK, which has withheld clearance until the audit concludes.
“As the investigation into the recent Entebbe International Airport fire incident unfolds, scrutiny of safety and operational standards at the facility has never been more crucial. The aviation community, stakeholders, and travelers are closely monitoring developments, hoping that necessary enhancements will ensure the continued safety and growth of one of Uganda’s most vital transportation hubs.”