Ludhiana: 75 firefighters for a city housing 16 lakh people
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Ludhiana: 75 firefighters for a city housing 16 lakh people

Among them, 35 are permanent staff, while 40 have been hired on contractual basis.

punjab Updated: Dec 02, 2017 12:53 IST
Harsimran Singh Batra
Harsimran Singh Batra
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
Ludhiana,Punjab news
Besides being short-staffed, the Ludhiana fire department is also ill-equipped when it comes to safety gear.(HT File)

Even as the Ludhiana’s population has grown manifold over the past 40 years, the sanctioned number of posts in the fire department has seen no increase since 1976, leaving it acutely short-staffed.

As such, for a city spread over 159 square kilometres, that is a hub of industries vulnerable to fire and home to a population of over 16 lakh, there are just 75 firemen available for exigencies. Among them, 35 are permanent staff, while 40 have been hired on contractual basis.

Worse, a huge number of sanctioned posts are lying vacant.

According to the information obtained from the Ludhiana fire wing, 138 posts have been sanctioned for permanent staff, including firefighters, drivers, clerks and Class-4 employees. But only 41 have been filled, a mere 30% the approved posts.

In total, Ludhiana fire wing has been sanctioned four posts of fire station officer (FSO), though the city has five fire stations — the Central Fire Station on Clock Tower Road and four others at Sunder Nagar, Focal Point, Gill Road and Haibowal. But none of these posts is occupied.

The next in hierarchy, sub-fire officer are also four short against six approved posts.

Besides, eight of 18 leading firemen positions are vacant, and 64 of 86 posts approved for firemen have also not been filled. Among drivers, 14 of 19 posts are not taken. Three posts of clerk are also empty, but the single post of Class-4 staff is filled.

The city has only one post of assistant divisional fire officer (ADFO), the top of the ladder, which is occupied.

The November 20 fire tragedy where a plastic factory building collapsed, claimed the lives of nine firemen, including three sub-fire officers, leaving the department in more dire straits.

Officials in the fire department said it needed at least 250 permanent posts. But the authorities had failed to fill even the 138 sanctioned posts. They said the department had hired contractual staff for some relief, but that was far from satisfactory, as contractual employees lacked skill and experience. Therefore, a permanent employee was always needed to be deputed on the scene of the mishap to supervise the contractual staff.

Besides 40 contractual firemen, the department has 12 drivers on contract basis.

A firefighter, requesting anonymity, said on the one hand the department did not have sufficient sanctioned post, on the other, it had failed to fill even those available, leaving the department severely understaffed. To compound their troubles, they were also not provided adequate equipment to safely fight fires, he added.

He said earlier there used to be three shifts in the fire wing, but due to shortage of staff, shifts have been reduced to two, forcing firemen to work 12 hours a day. The office of sub-registrar near Transport Nagar was developed as a fire station, but never went on to be utilised as one due to shortage of staff.

Municipal corporation commissioner Jaskiran Singh said he was aware of the shortage of firemen, and had already taken up the matter with the state government, whose approval was required to hire more fireman. Besides, the technical advisory committee of the MC had approved recruitment of 25 firemen on contractual basis, he said.

Singh added that he will take up the matter of increasing the number of sanctioned posts for the city, considering the population had burgeoned in past 40 years.

Fire wing gets five sub-fire officers

In view of the staff crunch in the fire wing, the local bodies department deputed five sub-fire officers from various districts of the state on Thursday.

Assistant divisional fire officer (ADFO) Bhupinder Singh said the five sub-fire officers had been transferred from Jalandhar, Amritsar, Patiala, Bathinda and Hoshiarpur, and will join office in the coming days.

First Published: Dec 02, 2017 12:41 IST