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HindustanTimes Wed,01 Oct 2014

This Diwali, pray that fire does not break out

Navrajdeep Singh, Hindustan Times  Patiala, October 24, 2013
First Published: 20:22 IST(24/10/2013) | Last Updated: 20:25 IST(24/10/2013)

The local fire department is in a state of complete disarray, with outdated vehicles, acute shortage of staff and no modern or necessary fire-fighting equipment.

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With the high potential of fire incidents during the ongoing festival season and especially Diwali, which is around the corner, it is clear that the ill-equipped fire station is not ready for action.

Though the municipal corporation and the district administration claim that they have made arrangements to deal with incidences of fire, a visit to the station exposes the 'hollow' nature of the claims.

Sources say that of four fire tenders, only two are functional, while the other two, made in 1984, are outdated and rusted tender, and can be seen parked on the premises.

Besides, a two-decade-old jeep and an ambulance are used as showpieces and have been parked in a corner of the station for the past many years, they allege.

Apart from the two remaining tenders, the station has one smaller fire engine, which is not sufficient in case of a fire in the city's interiors.

Nearly half of fire staff posts are lying vacant as of the 65 vacancies among sanctioned posts, only 35 have been filled, while four drivers were recruited on contract basis in April, 2011, and no regular recruitment has been made over the past many years.

Firefighters have not been equipped with safety equipment, including fire safety suits, boots and extinguishers, and the state government's failure to give them cover under a life insurance policy has demoralised them.

One of the firemen said they did not have fresh hodge pipes, used for dousing fire, and the ones they had were in poor shape due to leakage at several points.

“Of the two fire tenders available, one is often deployed with cavalcades of VIPs. In spite of several requests over the past five years, we have not been provided with fire suits and equipment for past five years,” a fireman alleged, adding that in case of a fire in the interior of the city, they did not have any two-wheeler fire tenders, and had to reach the spot by attaching hodge pipes to a big fire tender. While separate fire stations have been set up in Rajpura and Samana in Patiala district, the fire brigade here has to cater to a 60km area including Nabha, Patran, Khanouri and areas on the Punjab-Haryana border.

Assistant divisional fire officer Avtar Singh claimed that they had made arrangements to tackle any fire incidents with the available resources and equipment.

“We have already written to the higher authorities to provide fire suits, equipment and other basic amenities needed for firefighting, and have put the staff on alert and ensured services of vehicles to work efficiently,” he claimed, adding that people should set up firecracker stalls only in the areas earmarked by the district administration.

Fire facilities

Fire tenders demanded: 6
Fire tenders available: 3 (including 1 small engine)
Ambulance: 0
Staff demanded: 65
Staff available: 35
Drivers: 11
Firemen: 17

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