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Safety first

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Several incidents of fire have been reported in Srinagar and other districts in the last few weeks. Most of these blazes, as per reports and eyewitnesses, were triggered by heating appliances kept on and unattended during night. The latest one happened in Srinagar’s Sekidafar area during the intervening night of Sunday and Monday. According to eyewitnesses, the fire was again triggered by a room heater. The blaze was soon uncontrollable. It spread and damaged at least six houses in the area with videos showing massive flames engulfing huge houses even as residents howled and cried in horror seeing their homes turning to ash. While the firemen reached as soon as they could, they had a hard time dousing the flames especially because the incident happened during the night when the temperature is several notches below zero and the ground and approach is very slippery. In fact, a sub-inspect of the Fire and Emergency Department fell and got himself gravely injured while trying to douse the flames. Recently, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Pandurang K Pole said that in Kashmir it is important to frame area specific solutions for all hazards including fire because accessibility is an issue. He appreciated Fire & Emergency Services for doing an excellent work but suggested that in far-flung areas it become a challenge due to the difficult terrain and the localities become vulnerable to fire. He issued instructions to Director Rural Development Kashmir to procure two to three multipurpose Fire extinguishers, for all Panchayats of Karnah, Keran, Machil, Gurez and Tulail blocks and also around 700 far-flung villages in hilly areas which have limited road access in winters. These fire extinguishers shall be procured by the Rural Development Department and placed at the disposal of the respective Panchayats. Volunteers shall be identified in each Panchayat and they will be imparted fire-fighting training, so that it strengthens the Community level Disaster Management teams and encourages them to be part of the Disaster management set-up. In Srinagar, according to officials, 200 volunteers have been trained in Fire-fighting and basic first aid, under the Centrally sponsored Aapda Mitra Scheme and over 10,000 community based volunteers have also been trained in 20 Districts, besides thousands of Volunteers from CD, NSS, NCC, Scouts/Guides. With Kashmir going through one of the coldest Chillai-Kalan in recent history, it is understandable that people want to keep their houses warm and cosy to keep themselves safe from the bone-chilling cold. However, people need to adopt safe practices and ensure that they use electrical and heating appliances with utmost caution. The government has time and again issued advisories in this regard informing people of the good practices they can follow especially during winters to avoid such horrible incidents.