Fire Service Week

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The Fire Service Week concluded on April 20. The week long observation which commenced on the 14th of the month is an important day for fire service. For a quick brush up with the history behind the observation was that of a Vessel loaded with cotton bales, explosives, ammunitions and gold bars worth 2 million sterling pounds which caught fire on board ship S.S “Fort Stikine” in Victoria Docks, Mumbai, on April 14, 1944.  The fire aggravated with series of explosions within no time. All attempts to douse the fire had failed. The impact of the devastating fire was so powerful that it was visible from miles away. There was huge loss of lives and property. The exact number of dead, injured and the property loss could not be ascertained. But it was confirmed that 66 firemen from Port fire services, Mumbai Fire Brigade and Auxiliary Fire Service laid down their lives while performing their duty. The Government of India, in recognition of those firemen who sacrificed their lives in Mumbai Dock and including all those firemen all over the country, decided to observe April 14 as ‘Fire Services Day’ every year to pay tribute to them. It is remarkable that the observation is being held for a week. The observation includes lectures, demonstrations and other activities to bring awareness about fire safety among the people.
Call it coincidence or a matter of fate undoing; there has been a series of fire that broke out during this month. Most of the fire that broke out has been reported from the hill districts. Huge property got devastated because of the fire. Because of its topography scarcity of water is a major problem. This is worst during lean seasons when rainfall is minimum or almost nil. The locals solely rely on rain for water. This is true for the Fire Service as well. Ukhrul district is one where fire mishaps occur almost every year. The Wino bazar fire is no exception. As part of the observation the Ukhrul Fire Sub-station carried out campaign across the town in connection with the observance of `Fire Service Week`. Personnel of the fire station reached out to the people of Ukhrul. It was reported that the officer in charge of the station aired his dissatisfaction over the non-compliance of the public in spite of repeated drive as far as the safety norms is concern. Here, this act of non-compliance among the public is not only confined in Ukhrul, but a common prevalence everywhere. Take for instance the two commercial hubs of Paona Bazar and Thangal Bazar in Imphal. The concrete structures in these two places are expanding both vertically and horizontally. In case of a fire, the Fire Service at first has to battle through the crowded lanes to reach the spot, with unplanned parking allotment being a perennial problem. Precious time is lost needlessly on the way. After firefighting their way through, the water canon failing to reach the exact spot on fire would be another battle. This is because the structures are constructed with little attention to safety norms. Other commercial and semi commercial areas in Imphal like Nagamapal, Keishampat, Uripok, Wahengleikai and Sagolband are bound to face the similar fate in case of a fire accident. The makeshift fuel storage maintained by those in the business of selling petrol and cooking gas in a covert manner are a permanent warning to the authorities. A man succumbed to burnt injury just a few days back at Sagolband Tera. The fire broke out at an unauthorised shop dealing with kerosine. IFP had an exclusive interview with the Director in-Charge of the Fire Service Department. It is unfortunate that the department has been functioning without a full-fledge Director for more than ten years. The State headquarters not only covers the twin districts of Imphal East and West but also to areas like Nambol, Sekmai and other peripherals. The station has been rendering service with limited staff, although equipped with modern implements. We would say the awareness drive should not only be for the month of April. It should be a yearlong exercise. Strict enforcement of the safety norms should be pressed into service by taking help from the police. For that matter, the Fire Service should learn from the Electricity Department.

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