More fire incidents than last year as shortage-of-firemen issue heats up
The eight-month lockdown restrictions because of Covid situation have not eased firefighters workdays. The number of incidents reported by the Pune fire department between January and November outnumbers those registered in 2019.
The department saw 750 small and big fire and natural hazard incidents from January till November, 2020, according to officials. The 2019 figure was 650. The department is facing a shortage of over 510 men and requires 12 more fire stations to provide better services to citizens.
During the recent fire incident at Lohiyanagar in Bhavani peth slums on November 23, the response time was delayed by more than 25 minutes as trained drivers were unavailable. The shortage of firemen delayed the control of fire by the men on ground.
According to the civic activists, manpower crunch is affecting the operational effectiveness of fire department.
Civic activist Vihar Durve said, “The fire department does not have the necessary infrastructure to keep pace with rapid urbanisation in the city. Manpower shortage is severely affecting their work. We feel that the department must be run professionally and adequate number of resources must be dedicated to it.”
The fire department said that three stations which have been constructed over one year are yet to function due to lack of manpower.
“The control room had around 55 persons during the initial years, but now 10-12 staff are managing in shifts. The current manpower of 490 persons is just half of the manpower needed to cover the city requirements,” said Prashant Ranpise, chief fire officer, Pune. Of the 510 vacant posts, 390 are exclusively for firemen, he said.
The fire department is also facing shortage of drivers and have to summon those appointed on contractual terms from the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) vehicle depot in emergencies . And most of the drivers from PMC vehicle deport are not trained in driving fire engines. The department also needs drivers for quick response vehicles “Devdoot” as it has to depend on contractual drivers. Even fire assistants hired on temporary basis make it difficult for the department to function, states an internal circulation study of the department.
Ranpise said, “There are critical issues related to manpower shortage, including trained drivers, assistants, firemen and other skilled staff, and we have conveyed our need to the PMC for swift action. The work is getting affected due to expanding nature of the city and growth in population. New recruitment has been stalled as the state government has not given its approval for the recruitment roster prepared by the PMC in 2014. Hence, neither can new recruitment be done nor can there be promotions. We can’t operationalise the three new fire stations due to lack of manpower and work is suffering.”
Pune Mayor Muralidhar Mohol said “All the grievances and demands of the fire brigade will be taken up with the state government and necessary funds will be injected to increase the functioning capability of the fire brigade department.”
Fire department expansion, a necessity
Info: Manpower crunch is affecting the operational effectiveness of fire the department in Pune
2020: 750 big and small fire hazards in Pune
2019: 650 big and small fire hazards in Pune
Manpower shortage: 510 staff
Fire stations needed in Pune: 14
Control room staff earlier: 55
Control room staff now: 10-12
Fire stations non-functional for lack of staff
Spaces reserved for new fire stations
Response time delayed by 25 minutes in a recent fire due to shortage of workforce