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Fire station launch stuck in poll code

Bhubaneswar, March 24: A new fire station building near the state secretariat is ready for inauguration. It is expected to become functional after the general elections.

Fire officer B.B. Das said: “We have completed the construction of the secretariat fire station but cannot inaugurate it as the model code of conduct is in force. Once the elections are over, fire tenders will be put in place and the station will formally be opened.”

While the fire station is likely to become operational after two months, experts said several important government buildings that had old-fashioned gates, would prove a major hurdle for fire tenders.

The new facility is an important addition to the area as at present the nearest fire station is at Kalpana Square. Fire tenders stationed at Kalpana Square take more than 15 minutes to reach the secretariat.

Once it is commissioned, the fire station will cater to the secretariat and heads of department building and their annex complexes, the accountant general’s office, Rajiv Bhavan, intelligence wing of the state police, Nirman Soudh (office of engineer-in-chief of the works department) and Secha Sadan (office of engineer-in-chief of the water resources department).

The other important buildings in the area are the offices of rural water supply and sanitation, the Public Health Engineering Organisation, Sikshya Sadan, new treasury building, sub-collector’s office and the town planning directorate. The commissionerate of police building, information and public relations department, state guest house and the Assembly are also situated nearby.

All these buildings are within 350 to 500 metres from the new fire station, which will be manned by 15 staff members, including 10 firemen.

The station will also be able to cover other important government buildings such as Odisha State Housing Board, Bhubaneswar Development Authority, Boyanika Bhavan, Reserve Bank of India, SBI local head office, post master general’s office, Rabindra Bhavan, state archives, state library, several buildings of the public works department and the special treasury.

The state government had sanctioned Rs 1.1 crore in 2010 for the construction of this fire station. The construction was interrupted for a while but resumed after The Telegraph published a report titled “Government plays with fire” on May 20 last year. The report had listed seven fire incidents that had taken place at the secretariat in the last six years.

On May 18 last year, a fire occurred at the secretariat and another fire mishap took place this February at Rajiv Bhavan, which houses the water resources and agriculture departments and the office of the Odisha State Disaster Mitigation Authority.

“After last year’s fire at Rajiv Bhavan, we have taken an initiative to open a wide gate on the front of our building so that fire tenders can enter inside easily. Other important government buildings can also follow this,” said Odisha State Disaster Mitigation Authority general manager Kamal Lochan Mishra.

However, Mishra clarified that as the authority’s domain relates to natural disaster, the fire services department should request the authorities concerned to widen their gates to facilitate easy entry of fire tenders in case of emergency.

Fire department officials, on the other hand, clarified that they issued no-objection certificates to high-rise buildings, both private and government, only after observing the safety norms. But, the rules were not followed in most of these buildings. Moreover, the fire officials did not have the power to take action against violators.

“The Odisha Fire Service Act was passed in 1993, but the rules have not been framed till date. After the rules are framed, we will be able to penalise violators and ensure that the safety norms are followed,” said a senior official.