SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir Fire and Emergency Services (JKFES) department is facing a staff shortage of nearly 1,300 employees, out of a required strength of over 3,500, to handle emergency situations over an area of 294 square kilometers.
The shortfall includes officials, fire-fighters and drivers as large numbers of the department’s employees have either finished their service period or are about to retire. The existing staff are reportedly not fit to serve in the department since they are aged.
Sources within the department said that JKFES has 2,300 staffers at present, more than 1,282 less than the sanctioned strength of 3,582 staffers. The staff crunch compels the JKFES to manage only 87 fire stations and posts instead of the existing 156 stations and posts. The leftover 69 posts and stations are managed by internal adjustments among the staff.
“We have such an acute shortfall that two fire tenders at different locations in an area are managed by a single driver,” said one of the staffers. “Our officials are piling up our machinery with no addition in human resources. The serving staffers are mostly elderly and hardly fit to serve. The department should hire fit and able youth that could serve well in the emergency services,” he added.
“Ideally, a fire station should have one station officer, one sub officer, four leading fire men, two drivers mechanical, two simple drivers and 16 firemen on the ground. Instead, when any fire incidents happen, there are only six team members to handle the situation, in which three firemen, one driver, one sub-officer and one leading fireman are present,” said one of the department’s sub-officers.
“About 80 percent of the shortages are in fire and emergency department, and they don’t recruit due to some issues. Now, the court has ordered to conduct new interviews for candidates who had applied for different posts in 2014,” he further added.
“We are in need of new employees because those employees who have worked here for many years are now not able to work as they are aged. They don’t climb or jump or run as fast any more. They are experienced persons but can get things done only by giving instructions to junior employees,” he said.
As per the official data from January to September this year, 236 structures, 59 shops, nine shopping complexes, 11 vehicles, 30 electric transformers, 13 forest fires and two nursery fire incidents have happened in Srinagar through 2018. In district Budgam, there were fire incidents in 87 structures, 10 shops, nine complexes, five vehicles, 17 electric transformers and six nurseries; in Anantnag, 136 structures, 32 shops, five shopping complexes, three vehicles, 11 electric transformers and four forests had fire incidents happen.
The same was the case in Kupwara which had fire incidents in 190 structures, 48 shops, 21 electric transformers, one forest and two nurseries. The fire inident figures in Pulwama were 125 structures, 25 shops, five shopping complexes, three vehicles, 12 electric transformers and one forest; in Shopian, 93 structures, 22 shops, three vehicles, 12 electric transformers and one forest; in Ganderbal, 52 structures, six shops, two vehicles, two electric transformers, one forest and one nursery; in Baramulla, 187 structures 61 shops, eight vehicles, 16 electric transformers; in Kulgam 91 structures, eight shops, four vehicles and 30 electric transformers, while in Bandipora fire incidents happened in 96 structures, seven shops, one vehicle, one electric transformer.
As per the 2017 data, 349 structures, 99 shops, 18 shopping complexes, 24 vehicles, 44 electric transformer, one forest fire and three nursery fire incidents happened in Srinagar. District Budgam saw fire incidents in 111 structures, three shops, 14 shopping complexes, 13 vehicles, 13 electric transformers, four forests and one nursery. In Anantnag, there were fire incidents in 229 structures, 37 shops, 12 shopping complexes, seven vehicles, three electric transformer and 11 forest fires.
In Kupwara last year, fire incidents happened in 340 structures, 101 shops, eight vehicles and 15 electric transformers. Pulwama had incidents in 185 structures, 42 shops, three shopping complexes, 11 vehicles, eight electric transformers and three nurseries. In Shopian, 83 structures, two shops, two shopping complexes, four vehicles, five electric transformers and three forests had fire incidents. Similar cases took place in Ganderbal at 78 structures, seven shops, four shopping complexes, three vehicles and eight electric transformers, while in Baramulla, 220 structures, 67 shops, one shopping complex, nine vehicle and 16 electric transformers. In Kulgam, the numbers were 119 structures, 28 shops, one shopping complex, six vehicles and eight electric transformers, and in Bandipora, 137 structures, 30 shops, one shopping complex, 13 vehicles and four electric transformers.
Till September 2018, 41 people lost their lives and property worth Rs 44.74 crore was damaged in fire incidents, while in 2017, 38 persons lost their lives and property worth Rs.647.18 crores was damaged.
Official in the department told Kashmir Reader that there is no problem of equipment in the JKFES department. “We are having good facility in terms of equipment,” one officer said, preferring anonymity. “In our headquarters, we have five water tanks, one water boozer, two broton sky lifter, one advance rescue tender, one emergency rescue tender, one mini rescue tender, one DCP tender, Multipurpose two, QRV two, one ambulance and five bikes. We are lacking only in terms of manpower.
“We are not able to reach the spot within time because of traffic jam and congestion in the area. Due to these problems, lots of time is wasted during which fires engulf many houses. Another main problem is that there is no fire gap between the houses. If people maintain fire gaps, maybe many other houses will be saved,” he said.