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TOUGH JOB: Right and quick responses by firemen make the difference between life and death for those trapped during fires.
TOUGH JOB: Right and quick responses by firemen make the difference between life and death for those trapped during fires.

R. Sujatha

Firemen say their job is inspiring and immensely satisfying

CHENNAI: Their work is tough and the pay lower than that of a private security officer. Despite all odds, they save life and property, earning gratitude along the way. Firemen say they find their job inspiring and immensely satisfying.

Fire fighting and rescue efforts are more professional, say long timers. Increased public awareness campaigns have reduced the number of fire accidents but fighting them has not changed. “Earlier, there were only 75 to 85 fire stations and now the State has 283 stations. Earlier we had to fill our vehicles and then proceed to put out the fire. Now, the Metrowater also provides us with water,” says V.Vijaykumar, who has risen from the ranks to become the director of the State Training Centre. Improved communication facilities and modern equipment make it easy to clear debris and rescue trapped persons, he adds.

“When I was a fireman, all we had was cotton clothing. Now we have professional chemical and fire retardant suits. But, even then, panic-stricken public’s comments do not help. People can co-operate by mentioning a landmark that would enable firemen to reach the spot quickly,” he says.

Putting out fire in hutments is difficult, says station officer Suresh Anand. “People will not allow us to put a hose and within five minutes 50 to 100 huts will be destroyed. Our primary aim is to prevent fire from spreading. But, the panic-struck people do not understand our working methods. I can never forget the day the tsunami struck. We rescued several adults and children. So many people were buried in the sand,” he says.

Firemen are also called to rescue the youth who climb television towers to commit suicide and pets. In one instance, a person who threatened to end his life wanted a beedi to give up the suicide attempt. In another case, a fireman went into a building in his shorts and vest because the person threatened to jump if a khaki-clad person approached him.

When a schoolboy fell into an agricultural well on the IIT campus here sometime ago, the rescue personnel struggled for two days. The well was full of thorny bushes and the child’s body was entangled in weeds. It was a difficult choice to give up search after nightfall. But the people who had gathered understood the problem when the firemen explained, an officer involved in the rescue effort recalls.

Station officer Rajesh Kannan remembers the Bunder Street fire in 2006 where heat from a low-hanging bulb caused a fire in a crackers shop during Deepavali. “An 18-year-old youth died and for two days I was upset,” he recalls. Fireman R. Prakash recalls a fire on the seventh floor of a building on Poonamallee High Road. “We could not enter as there was smoke and people were threatening to jump from the building. We used a sky lift and rescued them.”

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