Short-staffed and no equipment: Panchkula fire dept on crutches

With less than the requisite infrastructure, the Panchkula fire station officers are facing difficulties in managing the increased number of fire accidents in the district, particularly during summers. The station receives an average of 300 emergency calls per year, half of which come in the months of March, April, May and June. Due to insufficient manpower and machinery, in case of intense blazes, the Panchkula firefighters sometimes require help from the Chandigarh fire department to tide over emergencies.

To add to their troubles, the fire station does not have any hydraulic ladder to deal with contingencies in the area's 200-odd high rise buildings. The ladders available for these vehicles reach a height of only forty feet, which would be four storeys high on an average. The station also has just seven vehicles in Sector-4 and one at Kalka for the entire district.

Apart from controlling fire, the Panchkula fire department also give fire preparedness training to groups and performs an annual inspection. This year, in April, the department slapped 111 notices to high rise buildings, most of which are group housing societies in Sector-20 while some are in Sector-24. The buildings were inspected by fire officials and were found to be inadequately prepared for emergencies. No banks or schools, however, figured in the list.

R P Dhull, Fire Station Officer, Panchkula, informed that out of the nine sanctioned positions for Leading Firemen, three have been vacant since 2001. According to Dhull, the positions will be filled after promotion. The process of promotion is supposed to be initiated by the Haryana government. Firemen are supposed to be given training and are awarded a diploma, after which, they are promoted as Leading Firemen. This, however, has not happened in the state for the past twelve years.

Dhull, however, said: "We are expecting one new vehicle in a few months. It has been sanctioned by the government".

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