Experts differ over fire ladder plan in Calcutta
The fire department will buy a hydraulic ladder that can go up to 102 metres and fight flames, a proposition that some fire-fighting experts say is a luxury because the space that it will need to manoeuvre and work is rarely available in Calcutta.
The experts proposed that the fire department should instead focus on making owners of tall buildings install robust internal fire-fighting system.
The internal fire safety system must have smoke alarms to alert people to evacuate the building immediately and sprinklers to shower water on the seat of fire. An underground reservoir and a network of pipes to carry water from the reservoir to upper floors are also necessary, said experts.
The hydraulic ladders that are with the fire department already face much trouble to work because of narrow and congested lanes. Also the mesh of overhead cables across the city doesn’t allow the ladders to unfold fully.
But fire minister Sujit Bose said the new ladder would help the fire brigade to fight flames in taller buildings.
“We will buy a hydraulic ladder that can go up to a height of 102 metres. The ladders we have now can go up to 68 metres. The new ladder will help us fight flames in taller buildings like The 42,” Bose said at a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) organised conference on Thursday.
A 68-metre capacity ladder can go up to the top of a 22-storey building, while a 102-metre capacity ladder can go to the top of a 34-storey building, said an official of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s building department.
A retired fire official questioned the necessity of buying a ladder using which would become a headache for the department. The official also said that a ladder of that height would need specially trained fire brigade officers for operating and maintaining it.
The fire brigade had taken a hydraulic ladder to Canning Street to fight the flames at Bagree Market last year, but the vehicle had to be moved out as its ladder got stuck in the mesh of overhead wires that didn’t allow it to reach the seat of fire. “The fire brigade is running short of manpower. This kind of ladders need dedicated people to operate and maintain them. Without dedicated staff the ladders would lie idle,” said the official.
Another retired official said that the department should focus more on making the owners of tall buildings comply with the fire safety recommendations.
But in Calcutta, several tall buildings do not have any fire safety system. The ones that have do not conduct regular checks and the system often fails to work when needed.
Bose said that his department was also planning to train youths in local clubs in basic fire-fighting techniques. “We have seen time and again that youths of local clubs are the first to react to any fire incident before fire brigade reaches. They help a lot,” said Bose.
The minister said that if these youths were trained properly and given some tools to fight fire they would be able to come to the aid of trapped people or fight the flames more efficiently.