Kochi

Eloor fire station reels under acute staff crunch

Fire and Rescue Services personnel dousing flames after waste and dry grass caught fire at Edappally on Saturday.

Fire and Rescue Services personnel dousing flames after waste and dry grass caught fire at Edappally on Saturday.  

It had to handle 54 fire breakouts in less than two months

Fire and rescue personnel at Eloor rarely have had a breathing space since the dawn of the New Year, with the force having been called up to attend to as many as 54 incidents of fire breakouts in less than two months.

This was in addition to around 11 water-related incidents, which claimed two lives, including that of a two-year-old boy who drowned in a well, during the same period.

The latest incidents of fire breakouts were reported on Saturday morning when waste and dry grass caught fire along the national highway near Apollo Tyres at Kalamassery and Edappally flyover.

Temperature soars

With the ambient temperature soaring, even a speck of fire triggers fire breakouts over large swathes of area as was reported a couple of weeks ago in an area spread over 10 acres near the old fire and rescue station.

“Container Terminal Road has emerged as a particularly vulnerable stretch accounting for an average of two fire incidents daily,” said T.B. Ramakrishnan, station officer, Eloor.

The extremely dry grass along its side has turned Container Terminal Road a powder keg, while the illegally parked trucks along the stretch face the prospects of going up in flames in any of these frequent fire breakouts.

Further worsening the threat perception is the practice of roadside cooking by truck workers, especially from other States. Not to mention the disruption of traffic along the area by smoke billowing out following fire incidents.

Indifference

“Notwithstanding frequent awareness programmes, people continue to be largely insensitive to fire breakouts and keep on setting fire to waste and dump cigarette butts, which could easily trigger a fire,” Mr. Ramakrishnan said.

Despite set bang in the middle of an industrial area with factories dealing in hazardous chemicals and being a major storage and transit point for tonnes of such chemicals, the Eloor fire and rescue station remains woefully understaffed.

Though the station should ideally have 24 fire and rescue officers, previously known as firemen, considering the workload, it has an allotted sanction strength of just 12.

Of them, three are undergoing training and are likely to join only in the coming months, while another has been assigned the job of writer, leaving the station effectively with just eight firefighters.

Count out those on leave or off and those in different shifts, and the station mostly has to do with just about two firefighters at any given time.

A nightmare

In place of a minimum of five drivers needed, the station has to do with just three, out of whom just one would be on duty at a time, making multiple fire breakouts a nightmare of the station.

Though the station has the service of nine home guards, mostly retired firemen, they could hardly be burdened with the same workload as those on the rolls.

And, making matters worse during a period of frequent fire breakouts is the difficulty in getting fuel bills cleared.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 2:25:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/eloor-fire-station-reels-under-acute-staff-crunch/article30832272.ece

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