THE FIRE department has noticed a sharp increase in the number of calls it receives each year as temperatures rise. According to records kept by the department, call volume near its headquarters is higher than at any time over the past four years.
“We are now receiving between 140 and 150 calls per day, which is well over double what we were getting in December. The number was about 70 during the winter months, but these figures have been much higher in the past three to four months.
“So one may say we’ve become acclimated to these situations as experts,” says Atul Garg, Director of the Delhi Fire Service.
In a report shared by the Delhi Fire Service, the number of calls received from April 1 to March 31 of the year 2022–23 (compared to the previous four years’ total of 27,343 calls) was highest, totalling 31,958. The report also stated that there is a good chance that the number of calls will rise as a result of the mercury consistently rising each year.
Rising temperatures and excessive use of electrical equipment for a prolonged amount of time are the major causes of the increase in fire occurrences, and although we have been loud about this issue, it seems like people don’t care until something awful occurs, the fire chief says.
According to Garg, another key issue that also played a significant role in rising fire incidents that most people are unaware of is the pandemic.
During the pandemic, many people used electronic equipment for around 20 hours per day, and the majority of these items were in poor condition, which frequently resulted in short-circuits and fire accidents. So much so that even in 2020- 2021, when Covid-19 claimed many lives, Delhi also lost 346 people due to fire accidents.
Garg goes on to say, “After the pandemic, there was the same pattern.”
Now that things are back to normal, the businesses want to recoup their losses, so they are working the machinery 10 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, which frequently results in malfunctions or short-circuits.
This has also been the major reason of a rise in factory and godown fires, combined with the lack of a NOC (No Objection Certificate), a prerequisite from the fire department to comply with the requirements of fire safety.
Another factor that people can’t seem to control is the pile of garbage that catches fire due to the scorching heat, sometimes due to reflection, sometimes due to small acts of carelessness such as throwing cigarette butts on the garbage piles. All of this contributes to the flammability of the already flammable compounds in this heat.
EXTREME MEASURES TO CONTROL THE SITUATION
“We use extreme caution in order to deal with the situation. As occurrences increase, we must also raise our game in order to halt or, in some cases, control the damage. Unless it’s an emergency, we deny every request for a leave of absence from April to June,” he says.
To be ready in case things worsen, the crew begins preventative maintenance on the fire engines in February, and the officers frequently work 10 hours a day to make the most of the manpower available in these difficult conditions.
As the number of instances increases, so do the risks of firemen being injured; is there any type of particular safety programme in place for them?
“Such particular healthcare or programmes do not exist. Injuries are unavoidable in this line of work, and everyone is aware of it. Also, we are prepared for it during our training, and all firemen are advised to take great care of their fire kits which basically works for us.”
According to Garg, “there is one area where there is no negligence and even the smallest problems are solved instantly.”
The death toll this year has almost doubled as compared to last year. This year, 1,029 people lost their lives in different accidents, whereas last year this figure was just 591. In these, 95 people lost their lives due to scorching, while 934 people were victims of other accidents.
At the same time, the number of those injured in the fire accidents increased significantly. This year, a total of 2,193 persons were hurt. 749 of them were wounded in the fire, while the rest 1,444 were hurt in other mishaps. According to fire department personnel, despite having less resources, they endeavour to save every life and minimise deaths.
According to the report, a total of 456 persons have died in the first three months of the year 2023 (January through March). That implies five individuals are killed every day. The statistic was 378 persons in the year 2022, during this period.
In the year 2022-23 (April 1 to March 31), 17043 fire calls were received out of 31958 total calls. Aside from that, 3375 requests for animal rescue, 4414 for bird rescue , and 7127 for miscellaneous services were received.
Garg ends by stating that 90% of the instances he sees on a daily basis may be avoided before they become disastrous. “These are simple actions of awareness that can save lives. I would want to appeal to Delhi residents to be attentive and co-operate with us for fire safety,” he says.