Pawan Hans plans to tackle blaze from sky; in talks with Govt

Pawan Hans plans to tackle blaze from sky; in talks with Govt

The national helicopter company is discussing a firefighting proposal with the government in which Pawan Hans helicopters will shoot water jets, retardant and foam directly from sky to douse flames, a method being successfully used in several developed countries like the US and Australia. "We have been discussing the matter with the officials to bring in awareness and familiarisation with the potential benefits applicable in our unique Indian scenario," a senior PHHL officer told reporters.

He said the PHHL was "already using this technique to wash insulators of high-tension wires for the Power Grid Corporation. With installation of some specific equipment, we will be ready for aerial firefighting too". PHHL has been carrying out washing and maintenance of high-tension wires of the Power Grid in Northern India for the past two years.

The officer, who requested anonymity, said the only "glitch" would be the cost of operation which is expected to be high. Without giving any figure, he said "as the operation will be the first of its kind (if the government gives a go ahead), the expenses need to be worked out based on the equipment supplies, personnel deployed and duration of operations".

"But when you compare the value of each and every life, the cost of operation will not seem much. Had this method been used in the Kolkata fire incident, the death toll would have been been far less," he said.

The PHHL officer said due to the speed, mobility and retardant delivery capability, helicopters are essential firefighting tool in the US, the UK and Australia. "Using this target-based technique, we can also save scores of lives which are lost due to delay in arrival of fire tankers".

On its advantages over existing land-based firefighting measures, he said, "it is better than traditional methods because of its capability to douse flames in a fast and precise manner, especially in cases of high-rise buildings in urban areas where traffic congestion often hampers such services." "It can also help in rescuing people from rooftops in the event of fire," he said.

Explaining the procedures of aerial firefighting, the officer said, "there are two methods -- one is using an external tank which is fitted below the belly of the chopper, in which the flow of water or retardant or both can be controlled with microprocessors". "In another method, bucket type of external mechanism could be used where water will be released in one shot".

Regarding safety of the method, he said all safety checks will be carried out and procedures followed on a routine basis before any mission is carried out, thereby reducing the chance of occupational hazards. "Not only this, we also have specially-equipped helicopters and specially-trained pilots for specific purposes, including firefighting, thus there is no danger in implementing the method and it is safe enough," he said.

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