After losing colleague in line of duty, Delhi firemen say they are not afraid of risks
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After losing colleague in line of duty, Delhi firemen say they are not afraid of risks

Despite the death of five firefighters over five months in Vikaspuri and Narela fire incidents, Delhi Fire Services chief Atul Garg says his team has not lost heart.

delhi Updated: Jun 02, 2017 13:30 IST
A Mariyam Alavi
A Mariyam Alavi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi Fire Services,Firefighters,Fire in Delhi
Delhi firemen trying to douse flames at National Museum of Natural History at Mandi House in April 2016.(Ashok Nigam)

Another fireman with the Delhi Fire Services, 51-year-old Bijender lost his life in the line of duty on Wednesday evening while trying to douse a fire at an electric heater manufacturing factory in Anand Parbat Industrial Area in central Delhi.

The incident comes less than three months after two firemen passed away during an operation in Vikaspuri. Two months before that, two firemen lost their lives in a fire incident in Narela.

The risk of injuries and mortality is part and parcel of the lives of firemen. However, they are always the first responders to any distress call.

By 7 pm on Thursday, officials at the Delhi Fire Services control room claimed to have already responded to at least 50 calls.

“We have 15 telephone lines. Each one rings at least twice every minute. Sometimes it’s about a fire, sometimes it’s about building collapse or other emergencies. We have to save everybody. People, animals, everyone,” said an operator at the DFS control room.

Hours before
A look at the final countdown to the death of a Delhi Fire Services personnel in the line of duty
  • 9.30 pm: A fire starts on the first floor of a three-storeyed industrial electrical heater manufacturing factory at Gali number 8 in central Delhi’s Anand Parbat industrial area.
  • 9.45 pm: Two workers see smoke billowing out of one of the windows on the first floor. They alert some workers and security guards. Police is informed.
  • 12.35 am: The blaze is controlled. About 20 firemen and two civilians are inspecting the building while the cooling process is on.
  • 12.45 am: Bijender too is on the second floor for inspection and a gas cylinder bursts. A portion of the roof and wall collapses. Pal is stuck under the debris and suffers severe injuries. Two other firemen and two civilians are also injured. They are rushed to Jeevan Mala Hospital from where they are shifted to Sir Ganga Ram hospital. Atul Garg, DFS, says Bijender succumbed to his injuries during treatment around noon on Thursday.
  • Around noon: Bijender succumbs to his injuries during treatment.

But who is to save the saviours?

Hindustan Times had earlier spoken to multiple firemen, after the incident in Vikaspuri, to find out what kind of protective gear the officers on the frontlines are equipped with.

Though critics claimed that many of the 3,299 people affiliated with the Delhi Fire Services, who may be dispatched to the spot, are not provided with individual protective gear, officials with the department said that all the officers are provided with basic personal protection gear such as helmets, fire repellent dungarees, gumboots, and breathing operators for smoke intensive sites.

The unpredictable nature of the job, and the high risk of mortality, despite the protective gear, does not deter them from doing their duty.

“We have chosen these jobs for ourselves. Yes, there are risks involved. But we save lives. We cannot be afraid of the fire, when there are lives at stake. Bijender had also entered a burning building to save lives,” explained Atul Garg, the chief fire officer of central and south Delhi zone and the fire prevention wing.

Garg explained, how his men had continued to fight the flames, even after one of their own died and two other firemen were injured.

“At the borders you go to war rarely. Firefighters are at multiple battles every day. But we do not go into our jobs expecting to get hurt. When I broke my spine and collar bone (trying to rescue people from the Uphaar Cinema fire), I had never imagined that it would happen to me,” SK Dheri, an ex-fireman, who was injured in the 1997 fire at Uphaar Cinema, had told HT.

Though these men seem to have hearts of steel, they also agree that their families may not be immune to the pressures of their job.

“Your family is usually under more stress. I think my wife and kids are usually more worried about me than I am. Whenever I am on duty and have to go to a spot, my family will keep trying to call me. If they can’t get in touch with me, they will try contacting the control room to make sure I am okay. That I am still alive,” explained Garg.

Bijender, the fireman who lost his life on Wednesday, leaves behind his wife and three sons who all work with Delhi Police, according to Garg.

Despite losing five men in the span of five months, Garg said he and his team have not lost heart. If anything, they are more resolute than ever. “We will continue to work. It is our duty,” he said.

First Published: Jun 02, 2017 12:04 IST