The recent spate of fires across the city and its suburbs has underscored the need to bolster up fire safety infrastructure.

At present, a number of fire stations promised for developing neighbourhoods remain on paper.

In April, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announced five new fire stations — one each for Okkiyam-Thoraipakkam, Velachery, Virugambakkam, Madhavaram and Maduravoyal. The Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services (TNFRS) has not commissioned the project.

Based on population density and allied factors, single-unit fire stations were planned for these five areas. In contrast, densely populated neighbourhoods such as Egmore, Esplanade, Ashok Nagar and Guindy have bigger, multiple-unit fire stations. According to a senior TNFRS official, the plan was to shift existing vehicles at such bigger stations or those on reserve to the proposed single-unit stations.

The number of fire stations is inadequate in the developed section of Chennai, let alone the developing neighbourhoods.Ill-planned distribution of fire stations results in poor response time during fire accidents. For instance, to deal with a fire accident in Okkiyam Thoraipakkam, a fire engine has to come from either Thiruvanmiyur or Siruseri.

The Fire and Rescue Services Department accords priority to 16 areas across the city and its suburbs.

These areas have a high concentration of industries dealing with hazardous materials. Fourteen hazardous industries including petrochemical and fertilizer units in Manali and a few pesticide units in Ambattur figure in the Department’s disaster preparedness map.

However, the same preparedness does not seem visible in extending fire control services to certain residential neighbourhoods.

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