Senior NCP leader and Baramati MP Supriya Sule Tuesday wrote to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray demanding the setting up of a Maharashtra Fire Control Force, on the lines of the State Reserve Police Force, to tackle fire incidents across the state. Her letter to the chief minister comes in the wake of recurring fire incidents in hospitals in Maharashtra which have claimed the lives of many Covid-19 patients.
Sule wrote, “The recent incidents of fire in hospitals at Bhandara and Bhandup, and the Fashion Street Market of Pune Cantonment have resulted in the loss of life and damage to property. Forest fires and fires on standing crops such as sugarcane have become common across the state. Our government must establish strong institutions and standard protocols for the prevention and containment of different types of fires.”
Pointing out the same, Sule said the Maharashtra Assembly had enacted the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, that allows public bodies to set up their own fire brigades.
“Today each municipal corporation/ council and metropolitan regional development authorities have set up their fire brigades for urban and peri-urban area . There are no fire brigades with Zilla Parishads or Gram Panchayats for rural areas. Forest department maintains a limited number of firefighting engines to contain forest fires. There is also no standardisation in the implementation of fire audit protocols across the state and in the places that have fire brigades, they are understaffed and their officials are poorly trained. The upkeep of equipment is poor due to small budgets and competing priorities in urban local bodies,” she said.
Urging the government to empower the Director of Fire and raise a Maharashtra State Fire force, Sule said, “Maharashtra Fire Control Force could be headed by an officer of the Indian police service cadre of the rank and scale of director general of police by adding more responsibility to the position of DG ( Civil Defence). All the fire Brigades in the state could be brought under his command. A state-level control room could be set up on the lines of 108 ambulance service for quick and adequate response in case of fire. The uniformed force General of Police ( Industrial Fires) Deputy Inspector General Of Police ( Training), regional Deputy Assistant Generals of police in each metropolitan regions, and Police ranges. Police patils, civil defence, and gram suraksha dal volunteers could be given basic training and simple fire fighting equipment to enable them to immediately respond and also to contain minor fires.”
She said the expense of raising the Maharashtra Fire Control Force would be low as the proposed force would be taking over the manpower and the capital assets of existing fire brigades across the state. “The proposed posts of all India and state cadres could be created after a cadre review to identify underutilized positions such that no new positions have 5o be created and also there is an increase in the utilisation of existing officials. Some new positions among the firefighters would have to be created to overcome the problems of the non-existence of fire brigades in rural areas and understaffing in various existing fire brigades.”