Ludhiana disaster: When firefighters used wet sacks as ‘safety suits’
The situation was such that in the absence of fire safety kits, some firefighters used wet sacks on their bodies before entering the building.
The fire-and-collapse mishap of Monday has exposed glaring chinks in the fire wing of the municipal corporation of Ludhiana.
At least six of the 13 dead were firefighters. In all, 40 had gone to battle the deadly fire, ill-equipped, when the plastic factory building had collapsed four hours after the Monday morning blaze began. The situation was such that in the absence of fire safety kits, some firefighters used wet sacks on their bodies before entering the building.
The fire wing has 100 firefighters. It does not have a rescue tender, used for cutting material, or a turntable ladder (TTL), used for dousing flames from aerial angles without entering the building. The fire wing relies mostly on the National Distaster relief Force (NDRF) and other response teams in times of major tragedies.
Of the 17 fire tenders, 12 were deployed. As per norms, for a population of 50,000, one fire tender is required. That means that Ludhiana with a population of around 18 lakh — unofficial figures put it around 30 lakh — should have 36.
Assistant divisional fire officer Bhupinder Singh acknowledged the staff crunch but did not put a number to it, and added, “It is difficult to overpower the fire completely even with 100 fire tenders as it is beneath the debris now.”
About the equipment, he said, “Tenders were floated for buying a rescue tender and turntable ladder among other equipment; we shall receive them in the coming months.”
The wing needs two turn ladder tables, 15 jeeps, five light towers, 16 generators, 16 motorcycles, 16 mini-tenders, 16 hydraulic spreaders and 16 hydraulic cutters, besides, fireproof suits, rescue vans, water boozers, foam tenders, high-pressure pumps, portable pumps and aerial ladder platforms.