K.N. Murali Sankar

Duty comes first for Fire Department employees

They say their family members have become used to their absence

They can’t even apply for leave, as it will become a violation of service rules

VIJAYAWADA: When everyone is celebrating the colourful Deepavali with their family and friends, a few dedicated people have to sacrifice their joy to ensure safety to the public.

Employees of the Fire Services Department have forgotten how it is to celebrate this festival the day they joined the service. While those who joined the department more recently are expressing the desire to celebrate the festival with their family members, employees who have completed more than two decades of service are saying that their family members have become used to their absence at home on the festival day.

“I have joined the department two years ago. For the first ‘Deepavali’ in the department, I missed the celebrations. That day I was busy attending fire calls in the office. Last year, a few of us enjoyed watching people bursting firecrackers,” says G. Srinu, a home guard.

Since it is the emergency service and the occasion when the services of the department’s personnel are required, it is not possible for these employees to enjoy a holiday. They can’t even apply for leave, as it will become a violation of service rules.

Families unhappy

“I am trying to convince myself that duty is more important than my personal life. My family members celebrate the festival, but I am missing it for the last couple of years,” says Abdul Khader, a driver in the department. “If the Deepavali day happens to be our weekly-off, then we can celebrate the festival with our family, provided there is no shortage of staff in the office,” B. Harinath Babu, a firemen who completed 25 years of service, says. “There were five such occasions so far,” he recollects with joy.. His batch-mates P. Durga Prasad and V. Guruprasad recall the occasions when they rescued people from fires while on duty . “When we were working in Machilipatnam five years ago, there was a major fire at a firecrackers godown. We felt happy saving a few lives, even though we could not celebrate the festival,” they recall.

District Fire Officer G. Venkata Narayana Rao says there are complaints from his son and daughter about his absence at home. “This is my 10th year of my service and my parents make it a point to come to my place for this festival. So that they all enjoy the festival, while I am attending my duties,” he says.