दिल्ली देहात से….

हरीश चौधरी के साथ….

Diwali fires: Is Delhi prepared?- The New Indian Express- दिल्ली देहात से

Express News Service

Festivities have already begun in the national capital and the whole country will be engrossed in religious ardour to celebrate one of the most prominent festivals – Deepawali – on Monday.

On one side we see smiling faces, enjoying the festival period with their near and dear ones – while on the other side are the law enforcement agencies and emergency services that get extra attentive to tackle any exigency which may dampen the festival spirits.

One such emergency response service is the fire department, which has been tasked to save lives and without any doubt, they do it most every day. But the department comes under extreme pressure on the day of Diwali.

Delhi Fire Service is a first responder in almost every type of emergency and in addition to this, the services of this department are also utilised to sprinkle water to curb air pollution. Just last year, in 2021, the Delhi Fire Service (DFS) received a total of 194 calls related to emergencies and fire on Diwali night. But why do incidents rise on this particular night?

“There are multiple reasons contributing to the total number of fire calls we receive every year on Diwali night, of which the most prominent is the use of firecrackers, especially that rocket cracker which accidentally sometimes lands at a far distance and results in a fire incident,” said Atul Garg, Director, Delhi Fire Service. And not just the firecrackers, sometimes even Diyas (earthen lamps) lit at the wrong place can cause a mishap.

Notably, firecrackers are extensively used in India during various festivals, ceremonies and social events, as is true the world over. They find a special place during Diwali. During this week-long festival, the whole country lights lamps, and hence it is also known as the “festival of lights.”

In India, firecrackers are available for use by the common public. Each and every individual is free to light the crackers wherever he/she desires. It is a well-known fact that whenever firecrackers are used, there is always a risk of burn injury or could result in an untoward incident.

But this time, the Delhi government has imposed a blanket ban on the storage, sale, and use of all types of firecrackers in the capital till January 1, 2023. This was done in a bid to prevent the already polluted air from getting more toxic.

The soaring levels of air pollution during the winter season is a serious problem with which India’s capital city – Delhi – grapples every year but firecrackers are not the only factor responsible for it. Air pollution is hard to be mitigated since it is a multi-dimensional problem – industry, vehicular, biomass/waste burning, and dust all contribute significantly, and each has its own political, regulatory, and technical challenges.

The Delhi government had last year as well banned the use of firecrackers, but still, the fire department received nearly 300 calls. However, according to the top fire department official, it was 25 per cent lower than the number of calls received the previous year in 2020.

‘DFS fully prepared’
DFS director Garg said this year again they are expecting a dip in the total number of fire calls as there is a blanket ban on the use of firecrackers.

“But, we are not lowering our guard and are fully prepared to tackle any fire-related emergency that may arise on Diwali night,” Garg averred. This year, around 2,900 firefighters will be on duty to tackle emergencies.

The fire department has been doing extra deployment at different locations to reduce travel time in case of any emergency. Fire stations and appliances are also kept in readiness to meet any eventuality.  

Garg said they have identified several hotspots or areas which are more prone to fire incidents and will deploy water tender each at 22 busy locations from 5 pm to midnight on October 23 and 24.

The areas identified for the deployment of water tenders are Bara Tooti Chowk, Tilak Nagar, Central Market in Lajpat Nagar, Lal Kuan Chowk, Lahori Gate, Nangloi, South Extension, Sonia Vihar, Mehrauli police station, Ghitorni Metro station, Alipur police station, Rani Bagh Market, DTC Depot Katran Market, Gandhi Nagar Market, Mahipal Pur Chowk, Sangam Vihar, Mundka metro station, Dera Goan Mor, Azad Market Chowk, Jaipur Golden Hospital, Paper Market Gazipur and Yamuna Vihar (near fire station site).

What about narrow lanes?
Those who are not residents of Delhi get astonished whenever they walk down the narrow streets of the national capital’s congested areas and suddenly encounter a small-scale industry. People usually visualise a factory as a big building in an open space with a chimney on the top, but, the reality bites in Delhi. The city is the epicentre of thousands of such factories and which are claimed as ticking time bombs.

Delhi Fire Service is constantly upgrading itself both technically and manually, but, the rising levels of temperature and population of the workers in the alleged factories are adding to the woes. Lakhs of poor people every year come to Delhi to improve their living conditions and get trapped in these factories as workers.

Whenever a fire incident is reported from such areas — even the fire truck is unable to reach immediately to the accident site and the rescue operation gets delayed. To tackle the problem of narrow alleys, the Delhi Fire Service has now introduced a motorcycle and SUVs for easy access and manoeuvring in streets and narrow lanes.

The motorcycles will be deployed at Ambedkar Nagar, Chandni Chowk, Sabji Mandi Ghanta Ghar, Paharganj Shiela Cinema and Gandhi Nagar while the firefighting SUVs will remain positioned at Connaught Circle and Geeta Colony.

Tech meets fire service
In order to negotiate congested lanes and heavy traffic, the Delhi Fire Service fleet has added a water mist system that is mounted on motorcycles (or MCFR). These motorcycles fitted with fire-fighting equipment are quick and can immediately reach the incident spot without any delay.

The bike is fitted with two water cylinders which the firemen have to ultimately carry on their back during the fire-fighting operation.

“These MCFRs operate on the pressure of 300 bars and produce a water mist of 40-micron particle size. The water capacity of the cylinder is 9 litres only,” a senior DFS official said, adding the vehicle is very useful to attack small fires, electric fires, fires in the incipient stage or till the backup support reaches.

Another technological advancement of the fire department this year is the induction of fully-automatic articulated turntable ladders, imported from Germany to tackle the fire and conduct rescue operations in high-rises.

“With combined simultaneous movements, the turn table ladder is an extremely useful vehicle for all types of fire fighting and rescue operations, especially in high-rise buildings,” the official said.

The turntable ladder provides a working height of up to 32 meters and telescopic section jacks open wide up to 4.9 meters (Vario jacking safety system) making it useful for narrow lanes. The ladder 
turret with automatic self-levelling provides up to 17.6 per cent side slope.

The display indications and computer monitoring is provided for easy safe operation. The output of the monitor is 1,800 litres per minute at a pressure of 10 bar with a 50-meter throw and water piping with a capacity of up to 2,500 litres per minute.

The official further said the fire department is in process of procurement of two articulated arms considered to be a revolutionary appliance in the field of firefighting. The vehicle shall be of immense use to fight fires in high-rise buildings and is known for providing flexibility in manoeuvring the water jets remotely.

Call of duty
Technological advancement apart, the Delhi Fire Service is making itself fully prepared for the upcoming days and in that respect has also restricted the leaves of its firemen. He also asked all DO’s/ADO to ensure the maintenance and upkeep of the fire vehicles under their jurisdiction and to carry inspections of fire stations for availability and operability of a maximum number of fire units and equipment such as BA sets, foam, foam branches, delivery hoses, suction hoses, branches, cutting and rescue tools, etc.

Crackerless capital
It is a 3-part process – the first was the government banning the sale of firecrackers and the second was the imposition part which the Delhi Police has been strictly implementing. Just recently, Delhi Police’s Crime Branch seized 13,700 kg of illegal firecrackers and 75 offenders were booked.

With stringent measures in place – including the recently-announced six-month jail term for bursting crackers on Diwali – all eyes will be focussed on the AQI readings from a night of October 24. 

Cracker ban from last year

300 calls were received by the fire dept in 2021 during Diwali 

25 per cent this is 25 per cent lower than no of calls received in 2020

2,900 firefighters on duty to tackle emergencies

22 hotspots get one water tender each from 5 pm to midnight on Sunday & Monday

Fighting fire with ‘ROBOTS’

In order to negotiate congested lanes & heavy traffic, the Delhi Fire Service fleet has added a water mist system that is mounted on motorcycles

Another technological advancement of the fire department this year is the induction of fully-automatic articulated turntable ladders, imported from Germany to tackle the fire and conduct rescue operations in high-rises

DFS had also inducted two Remote-Controlled Fire Fighting Machines – popularly known as ROBOTS

The aim: Safety of firefighters from the hazards of explosions, intense heat, toxic smoke or gas, and to instil confidence to bravely fight fire incidents 

The Remote Controlled Fire Fighting Machine is a state-of-art fire fighting apparatus that offers safe working conditions for firefighters and rescue teams

Plans are on to procure two ‘articulated arms’ to fight fires in high-rises – machines which are known for providing flexibility in manoeuvring water jets remotely

‘Crackers, only part of the problem’
A major contributor to the soaring levels of air pollution around the winter season in Delhi, firecrackers however are not the only factor responsible for the issue. Air pollution is hard to be mitigated since it is a multi-dimensional problem

Amid a blanket ban on firecrackers this Diwali, 2 items top the list in Delhi Fire Service’s agenda: prevent fire incidents and, in the process, mitigate the city’s pollution burden. Ujwal Jalali finds what ‘extra’ the DFS has tried to do this year