While high-rise buildings are sprouting in Panchkula, the town lacks facilities to deal with fires above seven storeys.
Construction of as high as 18-floor towers has been permitted without taking into consideration the adequacy of fire-fighting equipment and trained manpower available in the town to deal with any unforeseen eventuality.
The district has only one fire station in Sector 5, with a sub-station at Kalka, and 10 fire-fighting vehicles are available with the department. But none of the vehicles can reach fires that break out beyond two-storey buildings.
However, Panchkula Fire Station Officer S S Malik said, “With the existing equipment, we can deal with fires up to seven-storey buildings.’’
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As for higher structures, he admitted that they would have to seek help from the Chandigarh authorities who have two fire-fighting hydraulic platforms.
But the fact is that the hydraulic ladder in Chandigarh can reach only up to a height of 42 metres, which means a 13-storey building.
Malik said that before commencing construction, the owner has to get the building’s fire-fighting plans approved. These should include in-house fire-fighting water tanks, fire hydrants and other associated equipment. For buildings up to 15 metres, the Fire Station Officer approves the plan; for higher buildings, permission of the Chief Fire Officer at the Urban Local Body Department is required.
However, occupants of many high-rise buildings complain of poor maintenance of in-house fire-fighting systems. Besides, in-house systems, even if functional, aren’t always sufficient to put out a fire.
Executive Officer of the Panchkula Municipal Corporation O P Sihag agreed that the present fire-fighting equipment was not adequate to deal with fire accidents in high-rise buildings. “A proposal to acquire a hydraulic platform-fitted vehicle to takle fire accidents in high-rise buildings in Panchkula is under consideration with the government,” he said.