INCIDENTS OF fire in Pune over the last few years have become common. However, when it comes to preparedness or fire fighting, there seems to be a lacunae in the system, which needs to urgently addressed.
The recently-conducted audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has highlighted several points that they say needs urgent attention. With high rise buildings becoming a norm rather than exception, timely inspection in terms of fire preparedness has been made mandatory to avoid major calamities.
However, Pune’s fire brigade was found to be lacking in carrying out the inspections at regular intervals. These inspections are to be carried out by the office of the chief fire officer (CFO) or someone nominated by the office. Prashant Ranpise, chief fire officer of the Pune Municipal Corporation, blamed the inadequacy of manpower for failure to carry out such inspections.
Another major issue highlighted by the report was the inadequacy of the fire stations in Pune. As against the norm of one fire station every 10 square kilometer area, Pune has one station every 36.57 square kilometre. Among the eight municipal corporations in Maharashtra (Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, Thane, Nashik, Aurangabad, Amravati and Navi Mumbai), only the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai had one station every 13.46 square kilometre area. The audit report had zeroed in on some fire hydrants, which were not near water sources. Also, in some cases the fire engines were parked under tin sheds instead of permanent buildings, which would expose them to damage.
Every year, the Municipal Corporation allocates funds towards fire department, however, the fund weren’t put to use. In case of Pune, the funds around Rs 8.40 crore was found not utilised with the fire department citing the election code of conduct and other reasons for the same. Over all in the state, Rs 1,091.20 crore was allocated for fire department of which only Rs 854.87 crore was utilised, rest laid unspent.
While the audit report had highlighted the lack of proper public outreach to generate awareness about fire safety, Ranpise denied any short comings. “Every week we conduct awareness camps in schools, colleges and other institutions about fire safety. We have tied up with various agencies to increase the awareness,” he said.