During the recent Mumbra building collapse, which claimed 74 lives and injured over 60 people, the men in red played a crucial role in rescue operations and acted on their feet to save as many lives as they could.
Vijay Rane, Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s (NMMC) chief fire officer also gave us an insight into why he thinks Navi Mumbai is an easier battlefield compared to the rest of Mumbai and why he loves what he does.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Are fire stations in Navi Mumbai equipped to handle a disaster like the Mumbra building collapse?
Yes, we are ready to handle such situations. I have staff strength of about 130 people who work at four different fire stations situated in various nodes of the city. Apart from that we have equipments such as floodlights and cutting tools, which are essential for rescue during such accidents. We are also constantly in touch with the satellite city’s disaster management cell and keep them updated in case of any emergencies. Besides, there are 22 vehicles at fire stations all over the city with tankers that can hold about 2,000- 8,000 litres of water.
Do you think four fire stations are sufficient to serve the population in the city?
I have proposed a fire station in Sector 1 of Koperkhairane. There is no fire station on a long stretch starting from Vashi all the way up to Ghansoli. Therefore setting up a fire station on that node will be beneficial in case of emergencies. Similarly, I’ve also proposed to set up a fire station at phase 2 of Nerul.
And what about increasing the number of firemen at these stations?
Before 2006, there were about 33 firemen on a 24-hour duty in the satellite city. However, with greater number of people making Navi Mumbai their home, in 2007 a staff of total 130 was recruited. Many in our staff, unlike earlier times, are on an eight-hour duty. With the provision of new fire stations, we will add more firemen to our staff.
High rises are mushrooming across the city. Do you think the fire services are capable of handling emergencies at such tall buildings?
Fire stations are equipped with 68-metre ladders that can reach up to the 23rd floor of a building. For towers taller than that it is important that they are fitted with fire sprinkler system in case of emergency.
What measures do you take to educate people about fire emergencies?
Recently, we had made a six-and-half minute documentary explaining fire essentials required in a high- rise building in order to handle any fire related accident. The documentary was showcased at theatres in Navi Mumbai.
You’ve been the chief at the Vashi fire station for about seven years, what are the challenges you encounter on a regular basis?
My job is very challenging. The number of fire accidents has only gone up over the last few years. In case of any LPG leakage when others are running out of the place, that’s when we are entering. Usually, we don’t have a clue of the kind of situation we ought to enter, but risk our lives to save others. But that’s our job - we serve to save.
Having worked at Mumbai fire station earlier, is Navi Mumbai better in any way?
Yes, the good part about the satellite city is that it is well planned. That helps us cut down on response time in case of emergencies and we are able to reach the spot faster considering we have our fire stations at Airoli, Vashi, Nerul and Belapur. Also we try to extinguish the fire in the early stage itself, preventing from making the situation any worse.
Are there any plans of improving the fire services in the city by bringing in any new equipment?
Yes I am planning to get about five more vehicles in the next six months. Also a vehicle that would be able to hold 12,000 litres of water and having an
in-built pump is in pipeline. If all goes well the fire services in the city would have it with them soon.
Fire safety week: Better safe than sorry
In the backdrop of the Mumbra building collapse and in an effort to promote fire safety in high rises, Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation Fire Department held a fire safety exhibition at the Vashi fire brigade premises from April 14-16. Safety first: At the two-day exhibition, firemen put together information to promote awareness on fire safety. Various posters can be seen encouraging fire safety in high-rises, Diwali fire, kitchen gas safety, smoking and electrical fire among others.