A soldier is at risk when there is a war, firefighters are at risk 24X7: Ex fire chief Dheri

HT Correspondent, New Delhi: The fire at Uphaar Cinema in Green Park killed 59 people and injured 109. The

then fire chief, SK Dheri, suffered a fall and was hospitalised for three months. Nineteen years hence, Delhi hasn’t learnt its lessons on fire safety. On Thursday, a fire gutted a factory in Narela. HT spoke to Dheri to understand what puts citizens and the firefighters in harm’s way.
What has changed since the Uphaar tragedy?
We still have not learnt any lessons. There are so many high-rises that are ticking time bombs, but no one cares. Ultimately, it is the firefighter and the occupants of the building who suffer. Whenever such an incident happens, the firefighter is declared as a martyr and compensation is given to his family. That is alright, but what about avoiding disasters?
The licensing authority has to ensure that the buildings have proper exits and sufficient windows and space before clearances are given. But who cares? If a tragedy occurs, then the liability should come on them. Delhi Fire Services keeps sending notices to these buildings to follow norms but they are usually ignored. The community approach towards safety is pathetic. It is the temperament that needs to change.
What should the government do?
There are a lot of provisions in the enactment but they are not enforced. The rules to give out licences to buildings should be very stringent.
These disasters can be easily prevented if licences are given out after thorough checks… The government is supposed to make sure that the rules are enforced..
Read: Ill-equipped and underpaid, Delhi firefighters dodge death every day
What are the risks that firefighters face when they go for an operation?
From the time they step onto a fire engine, they do not know if they will return home.

When a firefighter enters a burning building, it expands and contracts. Most times it just collapses. It is a calculated risk. There is definitely a great risk to life as you do not know what is in store for you. Sometimes, the cylinders kept inside explode. We always say that in the Army a soldier is at risk when there is a war, but here, the life is at risk 24X7.
What are the major challenges a firefighter faces while on an operation?
One has to be very calm and focused. When firefighters enter the building that is on fire, most people are rushing outside and there is chaos. The biggest problem is to deal with smoke. Sometimes the firefighter has to climb to a height, which is risky as the building is collapsing. Many times the firefighters have to improvise and take decisions on the spot. They cannot afford to make a mistake as lives are at stake… Abroad, the firefighters are saluted, it is only here that they are ignored..
What about the safety of the firefighters? What do the rules say?
The firefighters are insured by the government. If they die on duty then a compensation is given to their families. In case they sustain injuries, the government takes care of their medical expenses.
But other than that there is nothing.

Posted by on September 30, 2016. Filed under State. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.