In the line of fire
By Siddhanta Mishra | Published: 18th June 2017 09:04 AM |
NEW DELHI: The blaze that swept through London’s 24-storey Grenfell Tower on June 14 killing over 30 people and destroying the building completely has raised safety concerns over Delhi Fire Service’s (DFS) capability to combat such an inferno in time.
What is alarming is that of DFS fleet of 250 fire engines, 150 should be off the roads as they are over 15 years old. In November 2016, the National Green Tribunal banned all vehicles over 15 years old from plying on Delhi’s roads.
“Replacing so many vehicles will be a problem. In many stations, our fire tenders are not used too much for the entire year. DFS should be given an exception, for which we will approach the court,” said G C Mishra, Director, DFS.
A fire tender costs upwards of Rs 20 lakh. The ones that will not be able to ply on Delhi’s roads include HAZMET vehicles, which were imported from Netherlands 15 years ago.
For the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the fire department was to go paperless, cameras were to be fitted at the front of each vehicle and they were to have GPS trackers. None of this was implemented.
DFS has 1,206 firemen against the sanctioned post of 2,367. This year, three firemen died in major fire incidents in Vikas Puri and Anand Parbat. Two died in a cylinder blast caused by an inferno in Vikas Puri, while one died in an inferno in an electrical equipment manufacturing unit in Anand Parbat.
DFS firefighters lack communication devices on their helmets and thermal imaging cameras, which are used by most countries.
“In case of a fire in a factory or a warehouse, a communication device on a helmet will be important in giving updates on the situation. Many times a firefighter gets lost in the dense smoke,” said fireman Rajeev at Connaught Place Fire Station.
The thermal imaging camera will be helpful in rescue operations as it generates an image of a person, and helps in tracking the root of the fire through heat signatures.
A firefighter’s uniform comprises a dungaree made of fire-retardant material, helmet, gum boots, fire axe and oxygen kit. In Delhi, 40 fire stations have the compressor required for filling the oxygen kits, which can provide air for 25-30 minutes. But the oxygen kits are shared among firemen.
What is surprising is that in case of a cylinder blast in a fire in which most lives are lost, the department doesn’t have a blast-proof suit. “The suits we have are not enough to protect us from a cylinder blast,” said a DFS official.