Monday, June 24, 2024

Away from home, they keep us safe every Diwali


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NEW DELHI: In the backdrop of constantly buzzing landlines in the Connaught Place fire control room here, Sharad Tewatia manages to take his wife’s call on his mobile phone. He speaks in monosyllables, making futile attempts to evade that one question — would he be home this Diwali?

In his last 10 years of work as a firefighter, Tewatia, 35, has spent just two Diwalis with his family in east Delhi’s Shahdara area. He stays awake through the night to keep the city safe during the festival of lights when fire accidents go up by four times.

As another Diwali comes around Oct 26, the father of two has no complaints about being away from home at a time when the capital celebrates with lights and crackers.

At the 53 operational fire stations across the capital, nearly 3,000 firefighters share a similar fate where they work round-the-clock in gruelling 24-hour shifts as the number of calls increase every year on Diwali.

“Earlier, it used to be difficult to explain to my family that I cannot be with them during the celebrations. But now, they are slowly coming to terms with the nature of my job,” Tevatia, a firefighter and heavy vehicle driver with the Delhi Fire Services, told IANS.

He takes a moment’s pause to show the patch of burnt hair at the back of his head and burn marks on his face that he received during one of the rescue and emergency operations.

“How will Delhi celebrate the festival if we go away to celebrate? We always keep in mind that if four lives can be saved by sacrificing our own, then we must go for it,” he says, turning to check the bright red fire tender at the sprawling fire station in central Delhi.

Fire department officials say they are once again geared up with a strong response mechanism for rescue operations.

“The trend shows that the number of fire incidents during Diwali is increasing. We are trying to strengthen the response mechanism, train manpower and reach out to people for awareness,” Delhi Fire Services director A.K. Sharma told IANS.

The number of calls received on Diwali last year were 169. In 2009, 207 calls were received and 158 in 2008. The calls on any ordinary day range from 50 to 60.

The department has identified 17 spots where the fire engine will be deployed to reach high-risk spots in a flash.

“Areas in Old Delhi with narrow bylanes fall in zones that have heavy traffic. So we will keep a fire tender ready at the closest spot which will remain in touch with the central station through a wireless phone. Static water tanks and sand sacks will also be stationed,” Sharma said.

The 17 spots where the fire tenders will be stationed include Tilak Nagar, Lajpat Nagar and South Extension in south Delhi, and Azad Market.

In case of fire breaking out in narrow lanes, the fire department will keep motorcycles ready.

Congested cracker markets such as Sadar Bazar, Azad Market, and Khari Baoli spell trouble for the men in uniform.

In case of fire, the fire control room transfers the call to the nearest fire station that is put on alert and asked to rush at least two fire tenders to the accident spot.(IANS)


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