For others, it is the biggest holiday of the year, but for firefighters in the city Diwali is the day when they are most busy and have all hands on the deck to deal with fire incidents reported from across the city each year.
Senior Delhi Fire Service (DFS) officials said over 1,200 firefighters would be on their toes on Wednesday, alert and prepared to attend fire emergencies.
Officials said to make up for the lack of workforce during the festival, scheduled holidays of all firemen have been cancelled.
“Last year I had to leave the family pooja about three times to attend to the emergency calls. Though it is an extremely challenging job, the satisfaction that we get when we save a life is beyond words,” said Rajesh Kumar Shukla, head of the Connaught Place fire station.
This year, DFS has deployed 22 additional vehicles and 11 quick response teams at vulnerable spots that includes crowded markets such as Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, Tilak Nagar, Gandhi Nagar and Jama Masjid.
Apart from this, 10 firefighters will be deployed with motorcycles at pre-decided spots that have narrow lanes.
These motorcycles are equipped with 15-litre foam tanks which are light and are capable of sustaining firefighting for a longer period.
Officials said fire calls increased manifold on Diwali. While the department receives around 40 to 50 calls during regular days, on Diwali the calls generally increase to 250. To reduce the response time, the officials keep their equipment ready inside the vehicles.
In fact some even keep their firefighting dungarees and boots in the vehicles and get ready on the way to the spot.
“On Diwali, our aim is to reduce the response time as much as possible. So instead of going to the barrack and getting dressed, most of us keep our uniforms ready.
As soon as the siren blows, we rush to the vans and get going,” said Shukla.
From reaching the accident spot on time, making escape routes and providing interim first-aid to victims, in most cases fire officials rush the victims to the hospital and visit victims post accident.
“We have been preparing for Diwali for the past one month. Crowded market places have been identified and basic firefighting equipment like fire extinguishers, buckets of sand and water are placed with traders’ unions. We have asked residents’ welfare associations (RWAs) to conduct special programmes on the dos and don’ts to be followed while burning crackers,” said AK Malik, divisional officer, DFS.
Officials work for up to 72 hours and fight not just the blazing flames but also the lack of ample firefighting equipment, traffic jams and insensitivity of the people.
“It is sad that despite putting our lives on the line, all we get is complaints from people for not reaching on time. It is easy to find faults but the truth is that most of the time is lost in making our way through traffic jams especially during festivals and clearing out crowd at the spot,” said Malik.