Hard landing for fire service hopefuls as poor safety net leads to 100+ injuries
About a hundred men have ended up with fractured limbs owing to poor safety nets provided by the Mumbai fire brigade in the course of its ongoing recruitment drive
About a hundred men have ended up with fractured limbs owing to poor safety nets provided by the Mumbai fire brigade in the course of its ongoing recruitment drive.
The fire service which hasn’t made any recruitments in the last three years needs to fill 1,200 positions. At present 910 positions have opened in Mumbai for which about 20,000 men have applied so far. This includes daily walk-ins as well.
The physical includes running 800m under three minutes, doing 20 pull-ups, shimmying down a 20-foot rope and jumping from a height of 19 feet, which is nearly two-storey high. Its during this manoeuvre that things have been getting hairy for the participants, all of whom are under 30. As the candidate is asked to jump from a height of 19 feet, a bunch of firemen below hold a large canvas sheet as a safety net. But the quality of the canvas is poor and it keeps tearing or giving way under the hurtling weight of the candidate. Resultantly, several men have crash-landed with grievous results.
Tushar Kumbhare, 30, from Nagpur is one of those who jumped and the canvas safety gave way. He fractured his left leg. The number of injuries at the recruitment centre is so high that by the time Kumbhare fell, the on-site doctor had even run out of any analgesic spray. He managed to reach his sister’s home at Badlapur and finally got an X-ray and a cast. “The way they were holding the canvas and standing was not safe. There were so many others who got similarly injured at the camp that day,” he said.
Ankushdada Kurade of the Swabimani Bhartiya Panther labour union was the first to raise the alarm on the high number of accidents at the firemen’s recruitment camp. “The canvas sheets are of poor quality and have been lying in a store for 3-4 years and have just worn out.” Hindustan Times independently spoke with four other candidates who fractured their legs, falling similarly during the drive. However, while they confirmed their injuries they did not want to go on record, worried that speaking to the media may hamper their recruitment chances.
“Every day, a thousand candidates jump on those canvas sheets, and about 15 to16 of them get injured daily. Only those who get scared or those who jump incorrectly sustain injuries,” said chief of Mumbai Fire Service Sanjay Manjrekar.
Asked about the poor quality of the safety net, he said, “Look, if a thousand people jump on it every day, it is bound to tear off. However, we have also kept a few foam sheets on the floor below.”
“During the last recruitment drive in 2017 too the canvas would tear but at that time the fire brigade had hired the services of a cobbler to sew it but this time it’s not been that bad,” he said.
One of the injured men who came to Mumbai from Latur said, on condition of anonymity, that when he hurt himself during the jump, there was no help forthcoming from the fire team other than being given an ice pack. “Finally, I had to take an autorickshaw and go to the BMC-run Bhagwati hospital where I was told to go to a bigger hospital for treatment after they saw my X-ray.”
He also shared his medical documents with HT which confirmed a fracture. While most patients end up at Bhagwati Hospital in Borivali, close to the ground where the recruitment is being conducted, some of the more seriously injured reach Sir JJ Hospital in south Mumbai. Jayram Adhav who fell on Monday evening during his test was rushed to JJ where he is under treatment.
Fire chief Manjrekar said they have yet to compile data on the total number of people injured, but said that they saw about 15-16 injuries including fractures every day from January 13 when the drive started.
Kurade, who has been keeping a close watch on the drive and the number of daily injuries, says about 100-150 men have had fractures. “Using such canvas as safety net is an outdated technique. The BMC needs to use inflatable cushioning or pneumatic jumping sheets. The BMC is playing with the lives of these young candidates,” he said. The recruitment drive will go on until February 11.