By Insha Latief
Srinagar: On the day MBA student Roshni Kaur lost her life in a devastating fire in her house at Mehjoor Nagar on February 14, she had bathed her pet dogs Tyson and Chanchan before taking a bath herself. When the short-circuit in her house occurred, Roshni was in the bathroom. Her father, Darshan Singh, kept pounding the locked door of her room, shouting for her to come out, but Roshni did not answer.
In the lawn of the charred house, Tyson and Chanchan now sit quietly near a pile of burnt clothes. They sniff everyone who steps inside the gate. Then they go back near the burnt clothes. Sometimes, as if in irritation, they begin to fight, and try to bite each other.
When Roshni’s family members along with some neighbours finally broke the door of her room, they found her lying unconscious. “Her nose was bleeding,” her father said. “While we were taking Roshni to hospital, she died on the way.”
According to Darshan Singh, the fire brigade came 45 minutes after the house went up in flames. Two storeys of the house – the second and third floors – were destroyed by the fire.
According to officials of the Fire and Emergency Services, the delay was due to traffic jam.
In the year 2016, 37 lives in Kashmir were consumed by fire. Of these, 9 were of Srinagar residents. Despite all these deaths, Mohammad Akbar, Deputy Director of Fire and Emergency Service Srinagar, says that in the past few years, the equipment used by the fire department has improved. Ladders, fire tenders, and water pumps are now better, he said.
“Now we use light-weight water pumps and ladders that can be extended to great heights. Floating fire-fighting tenders are used at areas where the suction height is more than 7 meters. They float on the surface of water and problem of suction is removed,” he said.
The better equipment did not matter to 75-year-old Mohammad Ramzan, who died in a fire that broke out in Buchwara area of Dal Gate on November 21 last year. His neighbour said that Ramzan had gone inside his burning house to check if there was anyone trapped inside. The wooden stairs of the house caught fire and Ramzan was not able to come out. Khadija, a relative of Ramzan, said, “It took half an hour for the fire brigade to arrive and to set up their system, Then they doused the fire. By then, 25 houses were destroyed and Ramzan had been charred to death.”
To douse flames, fire tenders usually look for a nearby water body to draw water from. But the once-abundant small water bodies in Srinagar and in several other Kashmir areas have long dried up.
“Most of the ponds have dried up and lakes are also on the verge of extinction. Moreover, the traffic mess is always there. People don’t give space to a fire brigade on the road,” complained Mohammad Akbar. “We as a society should understand and work together,” he added.
Officials of the Fire and Emergency Service also said that business establishments as well as government departments are not equipped with fire-extinguishing systems. They said that the few government offices that have fire-extinguishing systems do not properly maintain them.
“In hospitals, there are fire-extinguishers but no safeguards to avoid fire incidents. When we tell them to install certain equipment, they give lame excuses. Our recommendations are never implemented,” said an official of the Fire and Emergency Service Srinagar.