The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Make way for blaze-busters

BAREN SEN, director of fire services, met readers of The Telegraph at 13D, Mirza Ghalib Street to answer their queries. Participants included Ajoy Paul, G.C. Laha, Dilip Ghosh, Swapan Kumar Gupta, Tapan Kumar Basu, Avijit Deb Roy and T.R. Ghosh

Ajoy Paul: In case of a blaze, firemen are required to reach the spot at the earliest. Yet, some times, they are delayed by circumstances beyond their control. Why doesnít your department pressure the government to keep the roads free'

Thatís a very pertinent question. Congestion on the streets some times delays firemen, and the public vents its ire on them. The people are justified, in a way, to protest the delay, but they should realise that the firemen cannot help it. Usually, they take barely two or three minutes to start off after getting a call. Of course, the police always help to ensure that my men can reach a spot in time. If necessary, they temporarily block the traffic in a particular area to make way for our vehicles.

G.C.Laha: Apart from 101, what other number can the fire brigade be contacted at'

I suggest that everybody write down the number of the nearest fire station in a prominent spot of the house, visible even to the children and elderly.

Ajoy Paul: Are you satisfied with the present infrastructure of your department'

Is that ever possible' For example, we have a highrise ladder that can be used up to a certain height. But it will not help if a fire breaks out in the 36-storeyed building being planned by the CMDA. We need more sophisticated equipment and also, the means to maintain them properly. As we saw in the recent fire in Satyanarayan Park AC Market, all the fire-fighting equipment was in place, but it was not maintained, which is why it could not be used.

Tapan Kumar Basu: The Calcutta Municipal Corporation issues a no-objection certificate to buildings. But in several cases, the basic rules are flouted. How can this be checked'

To prevent rules from being flouted, building inspectors should undertake periodic checks. This also happens because some owners, after getting possession of the building, make a lot of changes that are not reported.

T.R.Ghosh: There have been instances when fire engines have had to be called in from distant areas. Why'

This can be minimised if hydrants are built in every locality.

Ajoy Paul: How do you tackle the problem of water'

Alarmingly, all the hydrants across the city have become defunct. In Nimtala, there are 16 points to draw water. But due to some unknown reason, they are all dry. Usually, we have to depend on the water tankers we drive down to the spot.

Ajoy Paul: Are firemen given awareness training programmes'

Of course. We call it a fire drill. Every April, we observe an awareness week.

Dilip Ghosh: Why were ECL and CISF jawans called in to help fight the Satyanarayan Park AC Market fire'

Their personnel helped because they have a certain type of experience.

Ajoy Paul: After any fire, are there any forms that need to be filled to apply for claims'

For claims, one should contact the director-general of fire services. Usually, after a blaze, the officer-in-charge of the local fire station submits a report to him. For a copy of that report, one needs to fill up a form and submit Rs 3 to the authorities.

Ajoy Paul: There are some markets in and around the city where electric wires are found dangling from the ceiling. Isnít that a grave risk'

The Fire Services Act has been modified to ensure that the department makes periodic and systematic inspections of a building. But for that, we need a licensing agent and a panel has to be prepared. The area of an agent also needs to be demarcated. According to the Act, every building-owner will have to pay a certain amount for the inspection. This was passed in the form of a Bill in the Assembly, and has provision for rigorous punishment for those who flout the rules. The Act will be implemented within a short period.

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