With only two firemen against the sanctioned strength of 42 and one driver against the sanctioned strength of 12, the Abohar fire department is fighting a tough battle.
Adding to their woes is the fact that the department does not have proper fire-fighting equipments and has to run the show with only two fire tenders (1982 and 1984 model), both of which are in a dilapidated condition, and a motorcycle.
Even the building that houses the fire department was constructed in 1975 and is in urgent need for repair.
Shortage of water filling points in the vicinity also creates huddles for the staff while dealing with a fire incident.
The department is responsible for handling fire incidents in not just Abohar but also in surrounding rural areas including Balluana, Situ Guno, Khuhian Servor and Khuhi Khera besides various villages.
The Punjab Fire Services standing rules state that there should be four firemen, one leading firemen and a driver against one fire tender per shift and there are three shifts including morning, evening and night.
“We have repeatedly raised the issue of staff shortage and lack of proper equipments with higher authorities. Thirteen persons, who were hired on contractual basis, had procured stay order on new recruitments, so until the court decides the matter, the department is helpless,” Gurjant Singh, fire officer, Abohar said.
“The state government’s priorities can be judged from the fact that it has been six months since they told the Punjab and Haryana high court that a Rs 45-crore grant would be released to procure new fire tenders but not even a penny has been shelled out,” Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief spokesperson and Abohar MLA Sunil Jakhar said. Jakhar had earlier filed a writ petition to demand new fire tenders for the state.
“Out of available 150 fire tenders in Punjab, except those in municipal corporations, 95 have been declared defunct but the state government is not bothered about it,” he said.
“When fire broke in the area, fire tenders had to be called in from neighouring areas such as Malout and Fazilka,” Ishu Kataria, a local resident, said.