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Kashmir firefighters face blazes without proper gear


Srinagar, Feb 22: Already facing shortage of manpower, the Jammu and Kashmir Fire and Emergency Services Department is forcing its existing employees to work in precarious conditions, expecting them to douse deadly fires without providing them any safety gear.
As fire incidents are very common in winters and especially during nights, the firefighters work in varied and complex environments that increase their risk of on-the-job deaths and injuries.
The uniform firemen are supposed to wear is neither water nor fire proof.
An employee of the fire and emergency services, wishing anonymity, told The Kashmir Monitor how after a recent fire incident, he was left all drenched and unwell.
“Few days ago, we got a call that a house at Chenkral Muhalla (Habba Kadal) is in flames and we immediately rushed to the spot. At least 2-3 houses were on fire and we tried our best to put off blaze,” said Ashraf.
In between setting off the fire, the fireman was all wet, water dripping down from his clothes, as he shivered in cold.
Since then, he has not been keeping well as he was soon after down with fever.
“We usually wear our personal waterproof jackets but unfortunately I forgot my jacket at home and went without it,” he said.
Another colleague of the fireman said: “We have a huge crunch of manpower, and currently our stations have four employees only and we work in shifts.”
Speaking to The Kashmir Monitor, Deputy Director, Fire and Emergency services, Bashir Ahmad Shah blamed lack of funds for the department not providing any safety gear to the firefighters.
Shah, however, said that they have received some funds from the disaster management authorities and their first priority will be procuring safety gear for their men.
For lack of manpower, he said they have conducted fresh exams for recruitment in 2018 but some