Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has compromised on firemen’s safety by providing them with substandard uniforms, boots and equipment, the Working President of the Mumbai Firemen’s Services said yesterday.
Accusing the BMC of taking on a lethargic and unhelpful attitude towards the civil defence personnel, Mahabal Shetty of the Union told Gulf News they have been persistently following up with the BMC on providing special uniforms, gumboots and more modern firefighting equipment “but our grievances have fallen on deaf ears for the last four years.”
With a staff of 2,600 manning nearly 35 fire stations that heed to emergency calls pertaining to fire, building collapses, road and rail accidents, drowning, gas leakages, oil spillage, fallen trees and rescue of even trapped birds and animals, the department has a specialised job to do, he said.
“Some time back, a fireman fell from a tree after trying to rescue a bird. And in an earlier serious incident in an Andheri blaze in a corporate building, we lost a 28-year-old fireman who died due to smoke inhalation.”
Fire stations are generally equipped with specialised equipment with firefighting and rescue vehicles, ambulances, breathing apparatus, hydraulic rescue tools, electric chain saws, concrete or steel cutters, chemical protective suits, fire proximity suits, search cameras and other devices.
“But in Mumbai, even the basic of all essentials — fire-resistant suits — is of substandard quality,” he said.
The biggest complaint, he said, is that the firemen never get their uniforms in time and if they do, they are ill-fitting and of poor quality forcing them to stitch the uniforms on their own. The firemen would then recover the money from the contractor, a system that was in practice but scrapped later. What was called a uniform scam a few years back led to withholding of increments for the last two years, a move which is unfair, Shetty said.
“This is demoralising and we pointed to the authorities on the substandard uniforms provided to us making us go for our own uniform.”
Now, firemen are complaining that even the gum boots given to them are of inferior quality and at times even melt when they douse flame, causing serious injuries to them.
During the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai’s Taj and Oberoi hotels, the fire brigade had to battle multiple fires that broke out due to the explosions. In the wake of this attack, it was revealed that Mumbai’s firefighters had poor personal protective equipment. An equipment modernisation initiative was initiated but complaints abound.