After a long wait, the under-equipped fire department in the industrial hub has been contemporised and stocked with hi-tech gadgets and four new fire tenders, which will help minimise destruction and streamline rescue operations.
The modernised fire brigade now has thermal imaging cameras, life detectors, inflatable lighting towers, battery operated cutters, and aluminium fire safety suits among other hi-tech gadgets in its arsenal.
On Saturday, Cabinet minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu and mayor Balkar Sandhu dedicated the advanced firefighting and rescue equipment purchased under the Smart City Mission to the fire brigade at its headquarters near the railway station.
The Congress leaders said that four mini-fire tenders with water and foam tanks, which had been purchased for ₹88.64 lakh, had been provided to the fire brigade to douse flames in narrow streets in the Old City areas.
To improve the chances of survival for those buried under debris during a blaze, three life detectors worth ₹66.02 lakh have been provided to the fire department, Ashu said, adding that the ₹69.5 lakh combi tools will also help save time and improve efficiency during rescue operations. The tools can cut through iron and steel rods easily.
Five thermal imaging cameras, which cost ₹41.79 lakh, will help to firefighters see through smoke and monitor the spread of fire. Besides, five aluminium firefighting suits worth ₹51 lakh have also been purchased for firemen so that they may safely enter burning buildings and douse the flames from inside.
Five portable inflatable emergency lights have also been bought for ₹11.74 lakh, said Ashu, while adding that the lights are based on a petrol engine system. Lights are required during a fire incident as the power supply of the area is snapped after a fire breaks out.
Ashu said, “More equipment will be purchased for the department. We are actively monitoring smart city projects and our ranking has improved from the 54 to 37 in terms of projects proposed and completed under the mission.”
The local bodies department has also provided two bullet motorcycles equipped with water mist extinguishers for quick response.
Shortage of firefighters
Meanwhile, the fire brigade officials say they are understaffed and have asked the state government and municipal corporation to fill the vacant posts and sanction more posts for fire fighters in the industrial hub.
A firefighter, requesting anonymity, they were facing an acute staff shortage. “Against 15 sanctioned posts of sub-fire officers, only five posts have been filled, and there is only one permanent fire station officer (FSO) against five sanctioned posts. Similarly, the department only has nine permanent firefighters against 86 sanctioned posts, while 50 have been deployed on contractual basis.”
The permanent posts have not been filled in over two decades.
Making do with limited resources
Firefighters have been facing a tough time dousing flames without proper fire safety equipment.
The resourceful firefighters have been making do with what they had. They have been using a dampened cloth to cover their faces while entering smoke-filled buildings and have used headlights for illumination during rescue operations at night.
Fire safety suits were not available at all, which endangered due to which made the team vulnerable to burns.
The fire brigade does not have a hydraulic ladder, a proposal for which was made around 15 years ago.
After 16 people, including nine firefighters died in the ‘plastic factory tragedy’ in 2017, the fire fighters had demanded that the ladder be made available. MC officials said that a hydraulic ladder is also being purchased under the smart city mission.
They have also demanded more fire stations in the industrial hub.
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