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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Fire dept has burning problems

Hillary Victor , Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, June 10, 2014
First Published: 09:39 IST(10/6/2014) | Last Updated: 16:39 IST(10/6/2014)

The deadly inferno in Sector 17 that led to a building’s collapse and death of two firefighters on Sunday was a disaster waiting to happen, given how careless the civic bodies have been for years now. Even as 10 cases of fire, minor and major, are reported in Chandig arh every day, the municipal corporation’s fire and emergency wing is practically relying on life-support system.

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For the past one decade, the department is short of at least 362 employees and four of its vehicles are lying defunct. To top it off, the MC has spent just Rs. 33,000 out of the Rs. 2.72 crore sanctioned for it last year. This year, the civic body has proposed Rs. 12 crore. The money remained unspent and nothing was done even when, in August last, a committee of the MC visited all seven fire stations and made some strong recommendations for an overhaul.

If the buck is to stop at the top, it is worth a mention that the fire department does not even have a permanent chief fire officer for a decade now. The MC had sought the nod for 500 posts, but the administration sanctioned only 262. Yet, the MC has not started the recruitment.

The MC panel had also recommended that each station be given the powers to spend Rs. 5,000 for urgent works, as most of the stations’ buildings needed repair regularly.

When contacted, Sunil Bhatia, the acting chief fire officer, said, “Let me sleep. I will be able to tell you more when I am in office.”

ADJACENT BUILDINGS DECLARED UNSAFE

Five fire tenders were pressed into service on Monday to end the fire and smoke. The police requested that the adjoining buildings — SCO 4 to 9 and 115127 in Sector 17B — be declared unsafe, and entry of public be restricted within 150 - metre radius. An order by the district magistrate stated: “The adjoining building/SCOs have gone weak and there is every likelihood that they may collapse and cause harm to the public.”

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