M.P. Praveen

The Thrikkakara unit lacks proper equipment, enough number of staff

Proposal to modernise the fire station

remains on paper

Staff shortage brought to the notice

of higher authorities

KOCHI: The proposal to modernise the Thrikkakara fire station, elevating it into a super specialty one in the State, continues to remain on paper even as the blast at the district collectorate has exposed its woeful shortcomings.

Forget being made a super specialty fire station, ever since its inception in August 2000, it has never had enough manpower or sophisticated equipment worth its name to carry out the high risk job of fighting fire.

Rising profile

This was despite the rising profile of Thrikkakara as the hub of IT and industrial activities, besides being the seat of the district headquarters.

Even a single unit fire station is expected to have 39 staff, including 24 firemen, four leading firemen, four officers and seven drivers. Compare this with the purportedly super specialty station at Thrikkakara, which only has a total of 15 staff – seven firemen, three leading firemen, one officer, and four drivers.

No more than half the staff would be available at the station at any given time owing to the shift system.

So, when the SOS reached the Thrikkakara station when a bomb went off at the nearby collectorate, there were just three firemen, two leading firemen, one officer and a driver. Out of this, one official has to remain at the station to receive any further messages.

“We have raised the issue of staff shortage with the authorities from time to time but to no avail,” a fire and rescue department official said. The situation is even more pathetic when it comes to equipment at the disposal of this limited manpower.

Archaic suit

An ideal fire station, let alone a super specialty one, is supposed to have among other things, fire fighting suit, chemical suit, fire proximity suit, fire entry suit, inflatable emergency light, spark proof torch and multiple gas detector. Sources said that apart from two water tenders with the capacity to store 4,500 litres, firemen at the Thrikkakara station did not have any of this equipment. “All we have is an archaic aluminium suit. We do not even have enough fire-proof gloves,” an employee said.

The station does have a foam compound used to fight Class B category fire involving inflammable liquids or gases. But ironically, there is no foam making branch pipe complete with jet spray attachment that helps create foam.

This effectively means that the station is incapable to handle a major fire breakout but is merely equipped to fight just ordinary combustible fire, the most common type of fire, which is classified as class A fire.

A reason why fire fighters from the Thrikkakara station often have to wait for their counterparts from other units like Aluva and Thripunithura with comparatively better facilities to tackle fire accidents.