Pune circle forest officials still playing with fire, but without safety kits
An official from the state forest head office confirmed that the proposal seeking fire safety kits is approved and the announcement will be made soon.
Forest officials expecting to be equipped with fireproof kits against the backdrop of the recent death of their fellow worker owing to lack of safety gear, have been faced with disappointment as the kits are yet to be given. With summer season, the peak time for forest fires, just around the corner, forest officials from the Pune circle have been on the toes to face their most avoidable nightmares; without a proper fireproof gear.
A proposal seeking 431 fireproof kits worth around Rs.45, 68, 600 was sent to Vikas Kharge, secretary, Maharashtra forest department, Nagpur office, by the Pune circle forest department on January 12.
Meanwhile, Shree Bhagwan, principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF), state forest headquarters, Nagpur, said, “We have approved the proposal and have also prepared a budgetary proposal for the same. The proposal will be implemented in April this year; the announcement for which will be made soon.”
The recent death of a forest official put the focus on the need for proper safety gear required for fighting forest fires. Vivek Khandekar, chief conservator of forest, Pune circle said, “Compared to other parts, the job in Western Ghat area is more difficult due to the extremely rough terrain. Even though instruments, like shovels, water tanks and fire beaters, are given to the guards, they find it difficult to carry those on steep climbs and prefer the traditional fire beaters made of twigs. There was no demand for the fireproof kits until recently. After the death of Nagthane, we decided to provide such kits to our staff and immediately sent a proposal to the state forest head office in Nagpur.”
On January 3, Sadashiv Tryambakappa Nagthane succumbed to serious burn injuries suffered while dousing the forest fire in Bhor district. He allegedly lacked the basic safety equipment required to douse forest fires.
The total staff of Pune circle is 575, including 380 forest guards, 57 officers and 138 forest rangers. They are the front line soldiers who protect the precious wildlife and the environment. However, not a single fireproof kit has been made available to these soldiers who risk their lives while dousing forest fires.
However, earlier, replying to the proposal, the department raised a question about the need of the kits in such large numbers. The department also questioned whether forming a core team could solve the purpose and if the staff was ready to train and perform mock drills using the fire-fighting kits.
In reply, Khandekar said, “A total of four areas, Pune, Solapur, Junnar and Bhor, come under the Pune circle and it’s not possible for a core team to travel from one place to another in case of multiple fire incidents. It has to be controlled by local staff and thus our aim is to provide them enough fireproof kits so that further causalities can be avoided.”
Fire fighters need a safety gear, which includes oxygen masks and appropriate fire-proof clothing. Nomex is considered as one of the good fireproof material brand for clothing. Sometimes, they also carry fire shelters if they get close to fires. There are special tents to protect them from extreme heat in case they are trapped by the fires.
“We need lightweight fireproof material which will help the fighters climb the extreme terrain in case of emergency,” Khandekar said.