Not a single hydrant of the over 600 installed by the British is operational
In the heat of the moment when the blaze is threatening to go out of control, fire-fighters, apart from warding off flames and falling debris, have to also struggle for the most basic requirement — water.
With officials of the Karnataka State Fire and Emergency Services (KSF&ES) Department claiming that not a single hydrant (of the more than 600 installed by the British) in the city is operational, shortage of water is a major hindrance to fire fighting exercises.
“There should be at least two operational fire hydrants in every block or few streets. Without hydrants for water supply, we have had to travel between five and 10 km to refill our tankers,” said Annegowda, former Regional Fire Officer (West), who has more than 39 years of fire-fighting experience.
He said the time taken for refilling the tanks could prove crucial to combating major fires. “It would take around 30 minutes to fill a tank of more than 5,000 litres. And the time spent refilling is often extended because the water pressure will not be available at these points,” Mr. Annegowda said.
Considering these experiences of fire-fighters, the Fire Department had requested the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) to provide points across the city for rapid refilling of fire tenders. Fourteen such points have been provided, while plans are afoot to increase the number to 30. However, Mr. Annegowda said even this would not be enough.
Not necessary: BWSSB
Even though the BWSSB Act, 1964, under Section 41 says it is the Water-Supply Engineer's responsibility to maintain hydrants on water mains, Engineer-in-Chief T. Venkataraju insisted it is not necessary to have hydrants in the city.
“As most high-rise buildings have their own water storage tanks, and high-capacity sumps, operating a hydrant is not necessary,” he said. Moreover, he said, the present flow of water in the city would make operating hydrants non-feasible.
“Water does not flow continuously through the pipes to which the hydrants have been connected to. Instead, we've told the Fire Department water can be diverted from other areas into these pipes in case of an emergency,” he said.
With water supply being one of the prime problems to tackle for fire-fighters, B.G. Chengappa, Director of KSF&ES, said the Department was looking to rely on using water from sources other than the BWSSB.
To ensure that the number of trips needed to fight a blaze is reduced, the Department has acquired high-capacity tankers — of 9,000 litres and even a 16,000 litre Water Bowzer — apart from sending more vehicles than is required to counter a blaze.