New Indian Express
NEW DELHI, — The capital of India is also the capital of ironies. As the festival of lights Diwali nears; the Delhi Fire Service (DFS) has begun making exhaustive preparations to meet the heightened possibilities of fire accidents. But the department is short staffed to the tune of 50 per cent. Though the DFS is making efforts to meet emergency situations with additional services like motorbike and car patrols in the city on November 13, it is alarmingly short of workers.
Going by the tradition of being ill-equipped to handle exigencies, the DFS is short of 1000 people owing to a dismal induction drive held recently. Out of the 500 workers selected by the DFS, 250 were eventually denied employment as they had produced fake certificates.
However, according to DFS chief A K Sharma, the fire service's full strength-1200 people will be on duty. Out of these, 200 are officers and rest are fire-fighting staff. The leaves of all staff members have been cancelled, except for some critical cases. The city has a total of 54 fire stations, but during Diwali, 14 more temporary fire stations have been set up. A total of 110 fire tenders would be deployed in the city. Plus 40 fire tenders having specialised equipment such as aerial ladders, foam and dry chemical would also be deployed at strategic locations. These specialised machines are needed in case of a big fire.
Sharma said "Extensive preparations are done on the Diwali eve. On a normal day, we get 30 to 50 fire distress calls. The number shoots up to 200 around Diwali. On Diwali last year, we received 206 fire calls." DFS has deployed men on motorcycles at 10 locations. "Most of the Delhi streets are clogged with traffic during on Diwali. If there is any fire accident, our men on motorcycles will reach the fire-accident spots and render their expertise till a fire brigade reaches the spot," Sharma said. In addition to the motorbike patrols, the DFS has deployed five rapid action vehicles to aid its fire tenders and expedite rescue operations.
Sharma feels that even the best of efforts from the city fire department are not enough. Awareness among people is the best way to avoid fires. He added, "The DFS has used the radio to spread awareness messages. This has had a effect on the minds of people." The DFS chief expressed concern about the Chinese crackers flooding the market as not much is known about their explosive content or whether they are suited for the local environment.
Will 1000 people be inducted by next Diwali? Sharma says the possibility of that happening is "remote". The selection of staff is done by another government authority, the Delhi Service Selection board and the recruitment process is long. Plus once the staff members are selected, they have to be trained for six months before being formally inducted into service.
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