38 die in fire incidents in 2017

Thirty-eight persons lost their lives while property worth Rs 64.33 crore was destroyed in a total of 2914 fire incidents which involved 1888 structures across Kashmir last year.
The official documents reveal that the property worth Rs 582 crores was saved during the rescue operations by Fire and Emergency Services in Kashmir in 2017.
“The total number of fire calls received by the department in 2017 was 2917, out of which 39 calls were fake. The number of rescue calls from all the 10 districts of Kashmir and two districts of Ladakh are 24. The fire incidents have been reported from 1888 structures, 423 shops, shopping complexes 60, 100 vehicles, 125 electric transformers, 20 forest fire, 13 nurseries ,” read the documents.
During these different fire incidents, 38 persons have lost life while 35 were injured.
The highest number of fire calls, 531, was received from Srinagar and the lowest number of fire calls , 24, were from Kargil.
According to Department of Fire and Emergency Services officials, most of the hospitals, shrines, and industrial units in Kashmir valley are at extreme risk of catching fire as their management ignore safety measures recommended by the department.
Joint Director Fire and Emergency Services, Muhammad Akbar Dar said the fire audit of every hospital, shrines and institutions is conducted and the report of hospitals is submitted to Directorate of Health and Principal of Government Medical College.
“The audit report of shrines is given to Waqf Board. As per safety norms, we gave them recommendation of fire and safety arrangement. There is only a particular section of people who are cooperating with the fire department and adhering to the fire safety rules,” he said.
He said Fire and Emergency department doesn’t have a magic wand to control fire.
“The wood used in shrines is usually dehydrated due to which it becomes vulnerable to fire,” he said.
About the safety measures presently in place at various shrines and other structures, he said the fire safety measures installed at these places are manual ones.
“We recommend them to upgrade it with automatic system. We are educating people about the fire safety measures but can’t force them to adopt,’’ Dar said.
Joint Director Fire and Emergency Services said the department is facing shortage of man power.
“We are trying to cope up with the manpower. Over the years, several fire stations have been established. But unfortunately these fire stations have been established from internal adjustments but manpower has not been created. At a station where we have to post 26 firemen, we post only 9-10 firemen,” he said.
President of Industrialists Association of Khanmoh, Zubair Bhat said that there were two incidents of fire, one at Plywood (Khan Furniture) and other at foam making (Star cotton). He said only a handful of these industrial units adhere to fire safety norms.
“Many don’t have fire extinguishers at their units,” he said.
Bhat said there are no enforcing agencies to check whether the fire safety measures are implemented in the state or not. “572 units are registered here, but only one percent of them are registered with Fire Service Department. We have big units here that are dealing with cotton, paper, and wood which are more vulnerable to fire,” he said.
Vice chairman of J&K Waqf Board, Nizammudin Bhat the government will formulate a comprehensive policy to check the fire incidents.
“Shrines will be protected fully from external mischief or from internal negligence. Power sector will be taken care of so that a short circuit never happens and equipments are available, audit is there, technical experts are there. We protect shrines as carefully as possible,” he said.
The recent incident of fire at the shrine of Khanqah-e-Moula in downtown Srinagar has once again put the focus on the lack of fire fighting arrangements and mechanism at religious places and especially in hospitals across Kashmir region.
According to locals, the fire fighting mechanism remains non-existent at the shrine of Khanqah-e-Moula. At other shrines in Kashmir including the Dastageer Sahab (RA) Khanyar, Naqashband Sahab (RA) and, Bulbul Shah (RA), the fire fighting capacity is inadequate.

Sabreen Ashraf is a 3rd semester student of Dept of Journalism and Mass Communication, Govt College for Women, MA Road, Srinagar.)

First published in Rising Kashmir on Jan 09, 2018