Lack of vital equipments, firefighting gadgets put life of thousands of firemen at risk
The Fire and Emergency Services (F&ES) in Jammu and Kashmir are putting the lives of their men at risk while dousing the flames without the modern and necessary equipment, thus putting a question mark over the functioning of the department.
Talking to Rising Kashmir, the F&ES men who are tasked to douse the flames lack the basic equipment. The employees working in the department said that they are being forced to douse the fire with no proper equipment.
Notably, several instances have taken place where the F&ES men have lost their lives while dousing the flames in absence of the basic and necessary equipment. However, the loss of lives have so far failed to open the eyes of administration to take measures to ensure the precious lives of these F&ES men are saved.
Fire staff lack basic and necessary gadgets and equipment to fight fire cases (incidents) while performing their duty throughout Jammu and Kashmir.
Numbers of firemen lost their lives while performing their duties at different parts of the erstwhile state throughout the year from time to time.
Firemen throughout J & K are lacking in modern gadgets and equipment as per the people working in the different places in the Valley as firemen.
While talking to Rising Kashmir, firemen posted at different places throughout J&K, put forth their grievances as they lacked the different necessary gadgets and equipment required to fight the fire incidents at the fire spot.
Valley of Kashmir is prone to fire incidents particularly in the winter season as people of Kashmir prefer to warm themselves by heating gadgets, firepots causing an increase in fire incidents.
In a recent incident on Feb 12 this year at Talab Tulu Jammu three firemen lost their lives and left six firemen injured while performing their duty at the fire site. The incident took place when a building collapsed where firemen were extinguishing the fire and left three firemen dead and six others injured, among injured persons one was reported critically wounded.
The deceased were Vimal raina 28, batch 2009, and Mohammad Aslam 40, batch 98, and Ratan chand 45, batch 94.
Earlier firemen used to keep losing their lives from time to time. In a similar incident in 2018, another firemen Abdul Majeed resident of chanapora lost his life when he was performing his duty in a shopping complex where a fire incident took place at Sarai Bala, Lal chowk, Srinagar.
In recent severe winters at Jawahar tunnel two firemen on duty came under the snow avalanche and got killed.
However in a recent development the department was able to arrange head gears or helmets for firemen at various fire stations but those helmets are not sufficient as per the employees working at different places.
Besides this, the equipment which firemen have at their disposal are long rubber boots, rain coats.
No hardship or ex-gratia is given to the deceased firemen as other government employees are entertaining such benefits from different fields.
Besides this , there is a lack of manpower in the F & ES department.
Ziglar or Tuhasu—a heavy pump which can be lifted by six men while it is lifted just by four men putting their life at risk. Which includes in charge, driver, leading fireman and fireman. Which is not sufficient for tackling fire incidents.
There is lack of manpower as the department had already notified a recruitment drive for various posts in 2013 where the exams or tests were also conducted by the department, which was stayed by the court order as some of the candidates filed a writ in the court against the recruiting body by allegedly charging them with bribery.
Man power, we are lacking in man power usually there should be six men in the crew.
A recruitment process was initiated in 2013, which is yet to be completed for seven years.
The reason behind the slow process of recruitment is some of the candidates have filed writ in the court alleging recruiting authorities of corruption.
We are lacking in dress code during firefighting , which water proof could keep our body warm and , after performing our duty at the station we don’t have heating, lighting arrangement.
We are lacking in communication facility if a firemen traps in fire affected sites thus is not able to communicate with our other personal.
In Kashmir division, in winters there is an increase in fire incidents, recently in palapora some twelve residential houses caught fire. Sometimes while returning from the fire site, we get the fire call from another area on the way, a fireman said.
As per Deputy Director F& ES Bashir Ahmad Khan, the department is availing service of sanctioned strength of 3716 employees at various positions which includes drivers, leading firemen and firemen etc.
However as per official figure of fire and emergency there are 1516 vacant posts against different positions throughout J & K.
There are total number of 176 fire stations including (18) fire –posts and (158) fire stations at different district throughout J & K. which includes 29 of(6) fire-posts and (23)fire station in district Srinagar, 19 fire station in district Kupwara, 18(4) fire-posts and (14)fire station at Anantnag district, 15 fire stations at district Baramulla,14(13) station and (1)fire post Pulwama/ Shopian district,11(8) fire stations and (3)fire posts at district Kulgam, 8 fire station at district Budgam, 8 fire stations at Bandipora, and 8 at district Ganderbal.
However, there are 42(38) fire stations (4)fire posts in all districts of Jammu division as per figures given by officials in fire and emergency service department.
76 locations have been identified under a survey conducted by the department, which have qualified for setting up fire stations.
However, in the year 2013, recruitment drive by the fire and emergency department around 800 vacancies were notified where phase- wise recruitment process was where stay was brought by candidates through a court order who alleged authorities of corruption.
Four of the fire posts have been winded up by the department which was running in a single room while two persons providing service as there were lack of sufficient manpower, who were lacking in sufficient equipment and manpower, it is a temporary process, when the available vacancy will be fulfilled, and these fire posts will be made functional again.
The police personnel get a sufficient amount for accidental death while these unfortunate firemen are not getting sufficient amounts against any human loss.
However, in a recent development under smart city project, the government took some concrete steps through which these fire station structures are going through the renovation process.
In a similar programme which one and half crore rupees two hundred fire suits of uniform which includes fire suits as we see in European countries which costs Rs. 75000 for each fire suit. 200 such suits have been allotted to our department by the government.
As per guidelines given by standing fire advisory council ministry of home affairs government of India, there should be at least 50000 people who would qualify for setting up a fire station in the locality.
The lack of adequate manpower in the fire and emergency department is affecting the fire-fighting mechanism of the department in Kashmir.
According to official figures, there are 1516 positions lying vacant in the department that affect their capabilities to douse fire.
As per official figures, currently the department is availing service of sanctioned strength of 3716 employees at various positions which includes drivers, leading firemen and firemen etc.
The department is unable to recruit required man power to strengthen its fire-fighting mechanism.
Earlier in 2013, the department had started a recruitment drive to fill some 800 posts as per the officials of F&ES.
However, the recruitment process was stayed by the High Court as the candidates’ alleged involvement of authorities in corruption in the recruitment process.
As per the officials, the vacancies increase with time as old employees retire leaving the department without man power.
The lack of manpower was affecting the general functioning of the department, an official said.
The department is facing a dearth of staff despite over 900 fire incidents reported in summer capital Srinagar during past two years.
According to data available at Fire and Emergency Services (F & ES) nearly 511 fire incidents were witnessed in 2018 and the number came down to 399 in 2019.
As per deputy director, Bashir Ahmad Shah , the reason behind the increase in the fire incidents in winter season is believed to be leaving heating gadgets unattended by the people.
Also the congestion in habitations in Srinagar area as compared to other districts of J & K, contributes to rise in fire incidents in the city.
Earlier this month, a fire incident at Khanyar left a husband, wife and their three year old daughter dead.
Shah added that as per guidelines given by standing fire advisory council ministry of home affairs government of India, there should be 26 persons posted in a D category fire station means a station where one fire tender is commissioned.