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Heatwave: Spurt in fire incidents in city

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SHILLONG, April 30: Several fire incidents reported in and around Shillong have kept the Meghalaya Fire and Emergency Services Department busy.
The department’s personnel on Monday battled 13 jungle fires, two transformer fires, a sawmill fire, a vehicle fire, and a case of short circuit on an electric pole.
They attended 10 forest fires and a drowning case on April 26. A jungle fire on April 27 and 15 such cases on April 28 followed.
Inspector General of Police (F&ES), Francis G. Kharshiing attributed the incidents to the dry weather coupled with strong winds and lack of rain apart from some cases of people carelessly sparking a fire. He discounted the possibility of Jhum or slash-and-burn cultivation, which is “not prevalent” in Meghalaya.
“The department is more or less capable of handling these emergencies with about 120 home guards assigned to assist us,” he said.
The home guards underwent firefighting drills at the Mairang Fire Training School for some 15 days.
“They have helped us tide over a large number of vacancies in the department,” Kharshiing said.
The department, he said, has been engaging with the community to make them aware of various aspects of fire safety.
The department has been working on a modernisation plan following the Centre’s assistance of Rs 40 crore. “There is a lot of room for improvement in the department,” Kharshiing said.
He said traffic congestion in the city has been the biggest challenge faced by the department, often affecting the response time.
“Fire tenders leave their respective stations within 1-2 minutes of receiving a distress call but they are often caught up in the traffic. The recent incident of a transformer fire in Bishnupur could have been catastrophic had the traffic personnel not been able to create a passage for the fire tenders to reach the spot within 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, taking note of the fire incidents in various places under East Khasi Hills, District Magistrate SC Sadhu promulgated an under Section 144 CrPC, prohibiting burning of grasses, woods etc, in forest and grassland areas, park gardens, places of plantation, barren lands and burning of forest, in areas within the district.
The order will remain in force until further notice.

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