Firemen lack safety gear, but not the will

  • Peeyush Khandelwal, Hindustan Times, Ghaziabad
  • Updated: Apr 15, 2016 23:51 IST
Firemen managed to rescue 16 persons who were trapped in a factory in Sahibabad in January. (HT Photo)

The fire department has saved 76 human lives and property worth around `240 crore in the last three years despite lacking a hydraulic platform and having only 31 personnel.

The majority of firemen believe that it is the instinct to save precious lives that drives them beyond normal human capacities. In a major fire in January, firemen saved 16 persons, including 11 women, after a tough battle with the flames at a factory in Sahibabad Site IV industrial area.

“The 16 survivors had climbed to the roof of the multi-storeyed building as the rest of the building was engulfed in the fire. We tried to bring them down with the help of a crane but it was not possible as common people are not accustomed to climbing down in such a manner,” Ajay Kumar Sharma, fire safety officer, said.

“A team finally barged inside and scaled the building without any protective equipment. All men braved high temperatures and thick smoke. Had we entered the complex later, those trapped would have jumped. We discarded all caution and used a hose pipe to spray water ahead of us as we climbed the building. We rescued each person by bringing them down on our shoulders,” he said.

Sharma was given the President’s gallantry award in 2011, for playing major role in containing the fire at an industrial fire at a factory in 2009, in which blasts took place in chemical drums. Braving the emission of poisonous gases like chlorine, ammonia and nitrogen, Sharma saved the bulk storage and also lives of those living in nearby villages.

Thirty-eight year old Mohammed Mehmood, an officer who has participated in firefighting at least 2,000 incidents of fire, says many lives depend on their actions.

“Once I am inside the premises (which is on fire), I don’t think about arranging the equipment. Every second is precious. I don’t even think of my wife and children. We suffer injuries many times but saving human lives is more rewarding,” he said.

Mehmood and a colleague were the first to barge into an oil factory at Udyog Kunj during a fire, a couple of years ago.

“Had both of them not doused the fire, the entire factory would have been reduced to ashes in the next five minutes. The two men only had a small fire tender with them and went inside without a breathing apparatus,” Akshay Ranjan Sharma, chief fire officer at Ghaziabad, said.

“Finally, it is only their efforts that matter most. The equipment may malfunction or may not come handy but these men have to barge in at any cost and save lives,” he said.

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