The municipal corporation’s fire and emergency service department has been observing fire safety week from April 14-20 for the past several years, but a few steps are being taken to revive the department, which is reeling under staff shortage and lack of resources.
Pertinently, over 300 fire-related incidents have happened in the past three months in the city.
Sources confirmed though the MC has declared Shastri Market (Sector 22), Sadar Market (Sector 19), Patel Market (Sector 15) and Furniture Market (Sector 34) as fire-prone areas, not even a mock drill has been conducted in any of these fire-prone areas for over a year. No preventive measures have been taken to thwart any untoward tragedy such areas.
Sources added the MC had given a nod to demarcate fire zones at over 25 parking lots but to no avail. “The wireless communication system for the fire and emergency services is yet to be upgraded. The department does not have a permanent chief fire officer for the past one decade. Tyres of five vehicles are in poor condition. The department doesn’t even have foam — used to extinguish oil fires — for the past six months,” said sources, adding there’s a shortage of 30 leading fire men at the department.
The administration had sanctioned 262 posts against 500 posts lying vacant for several years but the recruitment process is yet to be completed. At present, Varinder Chaudhary, MC additional commissioner, has been given the additional charge of the chief fire officer.
MP Kohli, chairperson of fire and emergency committee, admitted the department needed a complete overhaul. “We hope things will change this year, as we are going to fix the accountability of the officials concerned.”
As per the standing advisory committee of the Centre, every fire department should have at least 50% reserve staff of the total strength. Similarly, every two pump stations should have a station officer and sub-fire officer, leading fireman per fire appliance, driver and six firemen.
Another senior officer of the department, seeking anonymity, said, “With at least five fire-related cases being reported every day, it becomes difficult for us to tackle the situation sometimes. In case of a massive fire, there’s a requirement of at least 7-10 officials, though we have just four people. Due to the staff shortage, we don’t even allow our staff to avail leaves during festivals.”
Yet to learn lesson from past
Despite approval in the House in 2009, fire zones have not been demarcated in parking lots. Despite issuing over 500 notices in the past one year, only four buildings — three in Sector 34 and one in Industrial Area — have been sealed for violations of the fire safety norms.
Major fire incidents in the past
On April 10, 2009, four persons died of suffocation in a devastating fire that engulfed two floors of a showroom in Sector 22
On November 3, 2012, machinery used for video mixing and processing photographs was gutted in a major fire that broke out in eight shops-cum-cabins located on the first floor of a shop-cum-office (SCO) in the Sector-22 market
On June 9, 2014, two firemen died after a four-storey building collapsed due to a major fire in the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELIT) building in Sector 17
On September 29, 2015, as many as eight shops were reduced to ashes in a fire that broke out in the unauthorised furniture market in Sector 53