KARACHI: The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) will soon receive 50 fire trucks and four snorkels from the federal government to aid in emergency rescue services. The vehicles are being provided under the Karachi package.
The under resourced fire brigade department only has 48 fire tenders of which only 32 are functional. Of its four snorkels, only one works. On August 12, 2017, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi approved Rs25 billion while the federal Planning Commission allocated Rs8 billion under the Karachi Package on November 10, 2017.
As per the prime minister’s orders, all development projects are to be initiated after consultation with the KMC. However, the financial supervision of the schemes will be the direct responsibility of the federal government’s Karachi Infrastructure Development Company Limited (KIDCL).
According to KIDCL General Manager Zubair Channa, the federal government has approved Rs1.86 billion to upgrade the KMC’s fire brigade department. The funds will be used to procure 50 fire tenders and four snorkels, for which the KIDCL has already published tender notices for contractors.
The tender process will be completed by May, Channa told Express News, after which fire tenders will be procured and delivered to the KMC within six months and snorkels in eight months.
All Pakistan Fire and Rescue Workers Association General Secretary Syed Zulfiqar Shah welcomed the federal government’s move, expressing his hope that the addition will strengthen rescue services during fire emergencies in the city.
“However, in order to improve our rescue services to make them in line with international standards, we need to allocate at least Rs10 billion for the fire brigade department,” he said, lamenting that the department had been subject to governmental negligence for the past 20 years.
Shah lamented that 16 fire trucks and three snorkels of the department have been dysfunctional for years. “A city with over 20 million people only has 48 fire tenders, four snorkels, two rescue vans, one radio mobile, one command vehicle, four bowsers with a capacity of 10,000 gallons each, two water tankers, 22 fire stations and 1,200 fire fighters,” he deplored, adding that a large number of fire stations are also deprived of proper infrastructure.
“Five of the 22 fire stations lack basic infrastructure so the department has made temporary arrangements in Boulton Market, Baldia Town, Mauripur truck station, Gulshan-e-Maymar and Gulshan-e-Iqbal,” Shah revealed. “These temporary fire stations, each of which operate with a single fire brigade, do not even have underground or overhead tanks so water has to be procured from the nearby hydrants,” he explained.
“International standards call for one fire truck and one fire station for every 100,000 people while one snorkel for every one million people,” Shah said, according to which Karachi should have 200 fire brigades and stations and 20 snorkels. He added that the metropolis reports over 3,000 fire emergencies every year and the deplorable state of infrastructure does not allow the fire department to adequately provide rescue services.
“Our firefighters are not being trained as per the international standards and they do not receive their allowances on time” he lamented, adding that lack of equipment unnecessarily force the rescue teams to risk their lives. “Many firefighters get burned unnecessarily during rescue operations due to poor safety standards and machinery,” the All Pakistan Fire and Rescue Workers Association official said, lamenting that the lack of resources adds to the injuries of workers.
“These obstacles seriously limit the capacity of the department and it lacks the ability to adequately and effectively handle extraordinary fire incidents,” Shah said, appealing to the authorities to consider allocating more funds for the welfare of the firefighters.