Stressed fire personnel battle spurt in summer blaze

Rising temperature and a sudden increase in fire break outs in the capital have made the firemen run on their toes. 

A stressed fire department is also battling shortage of staff, while 16 proposed fire stations needed to meet the demands of a growing population are far from becoming a reality. 

Delhi Fire Service Director A K Sharma told Deccan Herald that there was nothing unusual in spurt in fire incident around this time of the year. “This is natural, high temperatures facilitate faster combustion and spread of fire”, he said, adding that he and his team of 2,000 firemen were ready for the challenging season, as they have machines to match the best in the world.

At least eight people were injured and over a 1,000 shanties were gutted in south Delhi's Vasant Kunj area on Friday morning. Two more incidents of fire were reported in the city on the same day but there were no casualties. On Sunday, a minor fire was reported from the lawyers’ chambers’ in the Supreme Court complex. No one was hurt.

The Delhi fire service officials said that during summers the number of daily fire incidents gets doubled as compared to other months. “A major cause of fire is short circuit and poor wiring at homes and shops”, said an official.

Last year, the number of fire incidents reported in the city totalled around 22,726 and the number of deaths in these infernos was 372. In 2012-13, 22,786 fires left 285 people dead in the city. In 2011-12, 22,441 blazes killed 357 people and in 2010-11, 22,187 fires claimed 447 lives.

Fire department officials said the rapid growth in the city’s population has left a huge gap in the fire fighting infrastructure and the burgeoning needs of the city.  “We have 56 fire stations at present. Sixteen new fire stations proposed by the department are yet to come up”, said an official. 

Over 1,200 vacancies would have to be filled as these new fire stations start coming up, he added. The existing fleet of fire tenders is also stressed due to excessive load. “At present, a fire tender attends about 50-plus calls a day. This is a high rate. As a result, about 15 percent of the 200 vehicles remain in workshops due to breakdowns”, said another official, claiming that this was not a high rate of breakdown considering the global trend.

  Officials said the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire tragedy, which killed 59 cine goers, drastically changed the people’s outlook towards fire protection but congested unauthorised colonies and buildings which came up before 1980 without any fire safety systems, were like virtual tinder boxes waiting to go up in flames. 

The bolster the existing infrastructure, the fire department has proposed new fire stations at Vasant Kunj, Civic Centre, Geetanjali Enclave, Mahipalpur, Ghummanhera, Golden Park Rohtak Road, Rohini Sector 3, Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar, Yamuna Vihar, Dwarka sector 3 and 20, Okhla phase 1, Jasola near Badarpur, Garholi, Chandrawal water works and Anand Parbat.   

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