VIJAYAWADA:Vijayawada, which is set to be part of the Capital Region, is expected to have several high-rise buildings dotting its skyline soon. However, the fire service department in its present condition, will not be equal to the task in case of any fire accident or other disaster, especially in the high-rise buildings.
At present, the city, with a population of over a million, has only five fire stations as against the ideal requisite 20 at the rate of one for every 50,000 population. And then, the existing five fire stations have only five fire tenders, one mist jeep and one fire motorcycle. “It is true that the city does not have the requisite number of fire tenders and that the fire department is facing a staff crunch,” a fire officials told Express here on Monday.
Most importantly, the equipment which are presently being used by the fire department will fall woefully short once the high-rise buildings come into being. The VMC is contemplating construction of four mega commercial complexes with an estimated outlay of Rs 250 cr, all of which will be high-rise buildings. They include one at the Lorry Centre at Bhavanipuram which will have 16 floors one on the Besant Road with 10 floors. Some private parties are also ready with plans for constructing high-rise apartments and commercial and office buildings.
The maximum height that the firemen can now reach is three floors, using ladders, and they can douse the fire up to 5 floors only.
If a fire mishap occurs in the sixth or higher floors, dousing the fire and rescuing people will be highly impossible for them as they do not have hydraulic platforms-equipped fire tenders like Bronto Sky Lift (BSL). There are only two such fire tenders -- one each in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam. They can reach up to 18 floors and can rescue people.
But, even if the fire department here were to procure a BSL, it would be impossible for it to utilize the same given the narrow roads and bylanes of the city. Even the existing fire tenders find it hard to move around in the city lanes.
Moreover, none of the public places and apartments in the city have hydrants to draw water from any source in case of any emergency. If it is summer, drawing water from the canals running through the city is not possible as they remain mostly dry with no release of water from Prakasam Barrage.
According to the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) website, there is a shortage of 97.59% fire stations, 96.28% firemen and 80.04% fire tenders and rescue vehicles in the country as a whole.
Urban fire departments suffer shortages of 72.75% in fire stations, 78.79% in manpower and 22.43% in firefighting and rescue vehicles.
In the 144 towns having populations of more than one lakh, there is huge deficiency of fire fighting infrastructure. Going by these observations, Vijayawada city seem to be merely reflecting a nationwide phenomenon.
Will the policy-makers factor in the fire service needs in the design of the new capital has now become a million-dollar question.