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Inadequate infrastructure affects Amritsar’s fire preparedness

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Tribune News Service

Charanjit Singh Teja

Amritsar, June 3

After chairing a meeting to review the impact of heat wave in the country, the Prime Minister instructed that drills for preventing and handling incidents of fire must be done on a regular basis, but the city faces several shortcomings in the firefighting infrastructure.

Dept surviving on bare minimum

  • On the demand of Focal Point Association, the government sanctioned another fire station there on Mehta Road last year. Now, 2 fire tenders have been permanently stationed there.
  • As the city has a population of over 14L, it requires at least 26 fire stations to tackle fire incidents efficiently.
  • Most of the existing fire stations were established by 1970. In the past 50 years, the city has expanded but the number of fire stations has not.

The PM had suggested that fire audit and electrical safety audit of hospitals and other public places must be undertaken regularly. He also said that regular drills for the maintenance of fire-line in forests and productive utilisation of the biomass must be planned. The PM was also informed about the usefulness of the “Van Agni” portal for timely identification of forest fires and its management.

But the holy city has to cover a lot of gap to overcome its handicap in fire-fighting. The fire department in the city often gets 3 to 10 calls per day during the summers. Fire at Bhagtanwala dump has become a routine affair and the MC has stationed a fire tender there permanently. It is really a challenge for the firefighters to tackle an outbreak in the narrow lanes of the walled city for want of proper equipment and supporting infrastructure.

There are only four fire stations that cater to the 14 lakh population of Amritsar. On the demand of Focal Point Association, the government sanctioned another fire station at Focal Point on Mehta Road last year. Now, two fire tenders have been permanently stationed at Focal Point. The fire tenders and other infrastructure have been provided from the existing fire stations. No additional staff has been recruited yet.

As per the Standing Fire Advisory Committee (SFAC), constituted by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, there should be a fire station for a population of 50,000. As the city has a population of over 14 lakh, it requires at least 26 fire stations to tackle fire incidents efficiently. However, there are only four fire stations, including three within the walled city area.

All these fire stations were established by 1970. In the past 50 years, the city has expanded but the number of fire stations has not increased. These fire stations exist in the interior areas of the city, but most of the time, the major fire incidents are reported from the city’s outer areas. The fire stations of Town Hall, Beri Gate and Gilwali Gate are based in congested areas where fire tenders find it difficult to get enough space to cross swiftly and reach their destination on time while attending fire calls from areas in the outer city.

During the peak harvesting season, the rural areas see a surge in farm fire incidents. Crops like paddy and wheat are vulnerable to blaze. Due to lack of proper infrastructure in peripheral towns, fire stations in Amritsar get overburdened. The peripheral towns and sub-divisions of the district have been without firefighting facility for long. There are 10 peripheral towns including Beas, Rayya, Baba Bakala, Jandiala, Kathunangal, Majitha, Rajasansi, Lopoke Chugawan, Ajnala and Attari near the city in the district. There is no firefighting facility in these towns except in Jandiala and Majitha. The government provided two fire tenders for each of the two towns last year

Dilbag Singh, Additional Divisional Fire Officer, claimed that they have sufficient equipment for firefighting and the government is going to set up more fire stations in the city. It is certainly a long way that the Fire Department in the city has to go before it is able to meet the expected standards.

About The Author

The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

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