Shortage of staff and fire-fighting equipment is affecting the functioning of the fire department of Amritsar municipal corporation. MC authorities appear least bothered about equipping the fire department with latest technology, regardless of the fact that the department tackles many fires at different places in and around the city.
Moreover, the Amritsar Municipal Corporation is yet to install hydrants in the most frequented markets, besides ensuring fire safety measures in hospitals, malls, houses and offices in the city.
Sources said the fire department catered to both Amritsar and Tarn Taran and areas around the city. Sources said that at present the department had only five fire tenders to fight fires.
However, officials said each of the four fire stations in the city had two fire tenders each. But the fire-fighting staff said a majority of these vehicles were around two decades old and were not in working condition.
The city, according to sources, receives around 500 cases of outbreak of fire every year. Currently, the fire department has around 52 people on rolls, including firemen and others, whereas the actual need is that of 135. "The recruitment has not taken place after 1985," said district fire chief Tarlochan Singh.
He said that at present there were seven drivers as against the need of 18. Singh said whenever there were one or more than one fires, the department had no choice but to depend on the three vehicles it had for battling the flames.
"Besides, the city receives a number of VIPs, which calls for stationing of fire vehicles. Besides, the staff works in shifts with a few people being on leave. This does not leave us with many hands to deal with emergencies," he said.
"It is not easy to manage with just three vehicles as our department also caters to Tarn Taran district. The going gets all the more challenging for us when we simultaneously have to deal with fires in these two cities with just three tenders at hand," said Tarlochan Singh. He said that to add to the woes of the firemen was the absence of hydrants.
"In case we run out of water while fighting fires. We have no choice but to rush all the way back to the fire station for filling our tanks again, which poses a big challenge to us," he added.
Tarlochan Singh maintained that to add to their woes were other problems like negotiating the unruly traffic, particularly in the cramped lanes of the walled city, where most of the fires were reported.
Assistant divisional fire officer Bhupinder Singh Sandhu said the government was seriously working at refurbishing the fire department. "Efforts are being made to introduce the latest technological changes, but it takes time to do so. The government has asked us to send our requirements and we have responded accordingly," he said.
Municipal commissioner Dharampal Gupta, however, denied that the situation was not so grim. "They do have the requisite infrastructure to fight fires, but their job is challenging," he said, adding that that every effort was being made to revamp the department and more technological advances were in the offing.