Vijayawada: The district fire department, on which thousands of lives depend, is struggling to cope with shortage of staff.
There are 22 fire stations in the district which are served by 233 employees, instead of the officially required 392. Interestingly, this requirement was calculated a decade ago.
The district has witnessed dramatic growth, both in terms of infrastructure and population in the past one decade. It is part of the state capital region, and receives thousands of people every day.
However, there has been no change in the required number of fire personnel in the district, let alone attempts made to fill the vacant posts.
Even going by the official requirements, the department needs to fill at least 170 posts to tackle emergencies. As per the requirement listed, the district needs 20 station fire officers, 74 leading firemen, 73 driver/operators and 225 firemen.
However, the fire department in the district has 18 station fire officers, 67 leading firemen, 41 driver/operators and 107 firemen. There are another 64 home guards attached to the department.
The district is home to VVIPs like Governor Biswa Bhushan Harichandan, Chief Minister Y.S Jagan Mohan Reddy, members of his Cabinet and legislators. Besides, hundreds of VVIPs and thousands of VIPs visit Vijayawada every day to participate in various programmes. Also, fire service vehicles have to be part of the convoys of these VVIPs.
With the shortage of men and the fire stations, the department faces a tough time if a fire is report more than 30 km away. Invariably, by the time the fire personnel reach the site of the accident, the flames would have taken their toll and all they could do is extinguish the embers and probe the reasons for the blaze.
In addition to 22 existing fire stations, another fire station at Challapalli is in the proposal stage. Even if it is sanctioned, it would hardly make much of a difference to the district.
District fire officer N. Avinash Jayasimha told this newspaper that about 80 firemen, 20 driver / operators are expected to be recruited soon for the district from the 400 firemen selected from across the state.
Mr Jayasimha said that a total of seven SFOs have also been sanctioned for Zone II, of which some would allotted to the district....