GUWAHATI, Dec 27 � The resolute responder in times of disasters is enduring a shortage of trained manpower, space, and funds in Assam. If the situation remains unchanged, the Assam State Fire Service Organisation (ASFSO) will only have limited capacity to attend to fire and other hazards.
At present around 240 posts are lying vacant in the organisation, which means additional burden on those manning their posts. There are instances of fire service personnel carrying on with their work for more than 12 hours at a stretch.
In recent months more than 50 new stations have been sanctioned which would require new space, equipment as well as firefighters. All three have been hard to acquire, said well placed sources in ASFSO. There have been instances in which fire stations had to be shifted to distant locations for space constraints even inside Guwahati city. In another case, the new premises cannot be used because the approach road at its present condition does not support heavy vehicles.
A major challenge confronting the fire brigade is inadequate training facilities for firemen. Due to dearth of space, and faculty, it is only in small batches that the firemen could be provided essential knowledge and skills in handling fire equipment. With the limited resources at its disposal, the organisation has trained some of its personnel and made them work as master trainers. The National Disaster Management Authority has also been approached to train firefighters.
Amid the constraints, firefighters have been busy surveying various types of building for compliance with fire safety norms. Till December this year 4,481 premises were surveyed and recommendations given by the organisations. Among those 2,106 were given No Objection Certificates. Those who have not complied, have been given time to improve their fire safety norms, failing which the cases would be sent to District Magistrates for punitive action.
The Government�s poor support to the ASFSO is becoming a matter of concern as fire incidents and allied hazards are on the rise. Every year, its personnel attend to around 300 �major� fire calls, and dozens of lives are saved due to prompt action. In the year 2008, property estimated at more than 65 crore was salvaged by after firefighting operations in various parts of the state.