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Just 14 fire engines to save 21 lakh,Gurgaon struggles to fight flames

For a city that has 400 highrise buildings (15 metres or more) and about 7,000 industrial units,Gurgaon might be sitting on gunpowder,as the district’s three fire stations have only 14 fire engines and 23 fire officials to tackle any emergency.

Written by Tanushree Roy Chowdhury | Gurgaon |
April 14, 2009 12:05:43 am

For a city that has 400 highrise buildings (15 metres or more) and about 7,000 industrial units,Gurgaon might be sitting on gunpowder,as the district’s three fire stations have only 14 fire engines and 23 fire officials to tackle any emergency.

This is woefully inadequate for a district spread over 1,500 sq km (30 km in length and 50 km in breadth),but exactly how abysmal is the situation? To take the government’s own norms — one fire engine and five personnel for every 50,000 persons — Gurgaon needs at least

42 fire tenders and 210 fire-fighters for its population of 21 lakh,and growing.

Besides the 14 fire engines,the three fire stations — Sector-29,Bheem Nagar,and Sector-37 — have two hydraulic platforms that can reach a maximum height of 40 metres. This falls far short of Gurgaon’s tallest building — Hamilton Court,89 metres — and is exactly half of the next two highrises: Windsor Court and Regency Park-II,both about 80 metres high.

The Centre had chalked out an ambitious disaster management plan for 267 districts across the country this February,and Gurgaon was selected for a pilot project. But despite money being sanctioned,little seems to have progressed since then.

“We had written to the state government to sanction 600 personnel for Gurgaon,” said a senior fire department officer (name withheld since he is not authorised to interact with the media). But the government has sanctioned only 23 — that’s less than 5 per cent of the requirement.”

Result: the fire officials in the district are made to do “long shifts in hazardous conditions that takes a toll on their health and enthusiasm,” the officer said.

Fire Officer Hanuman Sihag of the Sector-29 fire station said seven more fire stations are under proposal. According to him,the department has written to the Haryana government to make available 20 more fire engines and one 101-metre hydraulic platform (costs approximately Rs 21 crore).

The request is pending with the state chief secretary for more than eight months now,another official added.

Private hands chip in
Sihag said the government is preparing a law to make fire-fighting arrangements mandatory in both commercial and residential buildings. In Gurgaon,besides the three fire stations,companies like Maruti Udyog,Maruti Suzuki,Hero Honda and HSIDC,Manesar,have another six fire tenders.

But that,too,falls abysmally short of the requirement,say experts.

Sihag said most malls,offices,hospitals and industrial units in the district have adequate fire-fighting equipment but residential buildings are the problem area. “Private builders put basic fire-fighting equipment in buildings just to get a no-objection certificate (NOC),” he said. “But the resident’s welfare associations never bother to maintain these,let alone upgrade them.”

Inadequate exits in most buildings also pose a threat,Sihag said.

What authorities say
On February 12,the Haryana government had passed a Bill to make the fire department a separate body — Haryana Fire Services — and,according to sources,sanctioned Rs 44 crore for raising the fire-fighting infrastructure in Gurgaon alone.

The amount,though,still lies unused,pending in files,sources added.

State fire officer Illam Singh Chauhan said it would take time for the new BODY to take charge since the government is “in the process of formulating rules and regulations”. Till now,fire-fighting came under the respective civic bodies,he added.

Chief Secretary Dharam Vir said,“We have approved the demand for fire tenders; they will be in place after the election code of conduct is withdrawn.” Asked how many of the required 20 fire engines have been sanctioned,Dharam Vir said he did not “remember” exactly.

About the government sanctioning Rs 44 crore for the district (yet to reach the department),Dharam Vir said: “We have sanctioned the amount. It must be with the revenue officer.”

3 minutes
Maximum response time for firemen to reach crisis spot to save maximum life,property (as per National Disaster Management Authority)

25 minutes
Average time for Gurgaon firemen to reach a spot (as per statistics of Gurgaon fire department)

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