The dramatic rise in the number of fires in Karachi in recent days has exposed the poor state of the city’s fire department. Funds have either not been pumped into getting the required fire safety equipment or worse, have been embezzled by those at the helm of affairs. In either case, it is the people of Karachi who are at risk of losing their loved ones or businesses in case of a fire. A report published in this newspaper recently listed the shortcomings that the fire department faces. The neglect shown by the city administration, under which the fire department operates, as well as political appointments, corruption, out-of-order vehicles and poor working conditions have led to the ineffectiveness of the department. It is no surprise, therefore, that the fire in the timber market lasted several hours, resulting in the razing of shops, homes and warehouses. Moreover, the new year has now begun with five fires blazing in different parts of the city. One of these destroyed most of the furniture market in Gulistan-e-Jauhar.
Karachi’s fire department has failed to provide adequate protection to people from disasters resulting from fire. Unfortunately, the people responsible for this state of affairs have still not realised that the department needs a complete overhaul. The authorities must get rid of corrupt and inept employees. The remaining workers need to be trained on professional lines on fire safety procedures and the use of safety equipment. Then, the government must ensure that existing machinery is maintained and that new fire trucks are purchased immediately. It beggars belief that out of the 22 fire stations in Karachi, 13 are merely one-room establishments with a parking space for the fire tender, while some are operating out of makeshift containers. If international standards are strictly followed, there should be at least 200 fully equipped fire stations in Karachi. But this is clearly not the case. Unless the authorities spring into action, the city will remain a walking death trap.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2015.
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