One person died and nine firemen were injured in a fire in a naphtha thinner factory in Narol area on Saturday. Around 30 fire engines were deputed to the spot as it took the firefighters seven hours to extinguish the fire and find the body of the owner of the factory, Poker Ram Bishnoi.
The injured firemen were rushed to L G Hospital. The hospital authorities have said that the firemen sustained 15 per cent burns. While seven have been discharged, two are still under observation.
This is the second such fire in the last two days. On Friday, a similar fire gutted an air conditioner godown in Sarkhej were 5,000 air conditioners were burned. The fire was caused due to a short circuit. While no casualties were reported, it took 15 fire engines six hours to extinguish the fire.
All fire stations in Ahmedabad have been operating without station officers and sub-officers for over 15 years now. According to people in the fire department, over 40 per cent posts in Ahmedabad Fire and Emergency Services (AFES) are vacant.
“There are 15 fire stations in Ahmedabad and none of them have a station officer or sub officer or who we say next in command. We have often brought it to the attention of the concerned authorities. It is important to fill in these vacancies as it would ensure better co-ordination and response to emergencies,” said M F Dastoor, chief fire officer at AFES.
“So far, the firemen take charge of the situation. They often end up working longer hours and we end up sending fire engines from wherever they are available. If there is ever a major incident, these vacancies will pose a serious problem,” Dastoor added.
According to authorities at the fire department, only a handful of people coordinated the operation at Narol where engines were rushed in from all over the city.
“At the moment we need a minimum of 21 people at the senior positions. Things get out of control and difficult for us. For the Narol fire our deputy fire officer had to take over instead of the head of the nearest fire station. Having no fire station head leads to confusion and co-ordination in our work is very important,” said fireman Mitesh Patel who was a part of the team that worked on both the Sarkhej and Narol fire.
“At the decision making level, we only have the chief fire officer, additional officer, deputy officer and two divisional officers. It is not enough for a city as big as ours. We have tried asking the reason for the vacancy not being filled but there has been no reply,” added Mitesh.
On the lack of staff in the fire department, Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner Mukesh Kumar said, “Around 15 days ago, we approved the selection of volunteers for the fire department in our standing committee meeting. But we will look into the vacancy at the senior level. Now that the matter is brought to my notice, I will look at it on a priority basis.”