Fire mishap have been on rise in this Raj day town gutting most of the heritage buildings, however, fire combating strategies were found in mess.
Within six hours two major fires broke out in the city on January 28 this year, which caused loss of property worth Rs. 25 crore, gutting two storeys of historic Gorton Castle built about 110 years back was reduced to ashes. Another fire broke at a major commercial area in the heart of the town.
Following up fire combating strategies and measures in the town, media tried to find out major lapses behind the failure to avert such fire mishaps and douse down infernos.
Despite well placed system built up by Britishers long back, 81 fire personnel’s pressed in fire combating having capacity to rush fire tenders at the speed of 80 km per hour could not respond after one hour of fire call due to number of hassle on road.
Mr. J.C. Sharma, divisional fire officer of the town told that vehicles parked in haphazard manner in the parking of Deputy Commissioner Office, CTO (central telegraph office) and AG office (Accountant General of HP) delayed response.
In other fire mishaps occurred in densely populated and public crowded Lower Bazar also posed similar problem as loaded cannon of fire bridges could not traversed quickly as it was struck by illegal hoardings raised in the market and unauthorized encroachment by the traders.
He said that while passing this congestion it did not hampered movement but also deformed ladder gallows, pipes, paints and sheets of fire tenders pressed in operation also delayed response to much extent.
He accepted that fire could be beyond their control if delay did not occur as tenders were struck due to unplanned parking in public places and particularly AG office should be the eye opener for civic authority.
Water supply used in both the fire mishaps were taken from the water hydrants which were buried underground by Britishers while laying foundation of this town for their summer capital hundreds of years ago.
This pre-disaster arrangement for fire is called hydrants which supply gushing water supply whenever required, which is also used by different fire tenders at AG office.
Similarly, hydrants were also used at Lower Bazar and Mall road to get water for Lower Bazar fire as it supplied water to five fire engines.
The official revealed that about 511 such hydrants are working at Mall Road (220), Chhota Shimla (186), Tilak Nagar (78), HP secretariat (15), Vidhan Sabha (6), Raj Bhawan (6).
Mr. Sharma confirmed that only 311 were functional as rest 200 are defunct or buried during tarring and are not being retraced now.
While laying optical fibers frequently on the Mall road, Lower Bazar and other parts of the capital town, such hydrants were put to shambles as no one including concerned department is taking care, Michal Taung Tuo old businessmen of town said.
After every hundred of meters hydrants being placed by Britishers along with indication sign of its location and distance along breast-wall of the town where it is laid down, he added.
In order to join water supply with fire tenders each vehicles are equipped with stand pipe and hydrant adopter which are immediately connected to the fire hydrants to get readily discharge of water in testing time.
The counselor municipality Shimla Anup Vaid said that fire hydrants were broken at several parts of the town and many of them were untraceable now, moreover, these are not being regularly tested for working.
Fire department official said that Municipal Corporation has been informed to about the retracing fire hydrants which were gone untraceable. However, department conduct quarterly inspection of hydrants to confirm its use and location.
He also advised the shopkeeper to keep fire extinguisher to swiftly respond to any fire call or alarm. People should pay heed to the information disseminated through fire services week celebrated annually from 14 to 20 April on the recommendation of government of India.
To further cope of with increasing dilemma facade during fire combating, department has decided to upgrade equipment available with them.
Hydraulic platform which would help them to have better access to the height upto 30 to 35 meter and new fire tenders are on the lists for fire department to equip with.
The efforts are on foot to bring in new efficient vehicles and latest pumps to control fire to unfathomable heights and distances in the town.
After consultation with MC Shimla it was also planned to remove major bottle neck or illegal hording coming up in congested place to clear for free access in densely populated and crowded market places in the testing time.
There should be coordination between different agencies to make a foolproof strategy to meet out of such eventuality in the town or save only few rare buildings which are left out as unique heritage of this town.