Baramulla, Jun 29: On 21st June, five shops were gutted in a devastating fire in Sheeri market of Narvaaw block in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. The fire broke out from a bakery shop due to an electric short circuit, which later on engulfed the surrounding bakery shops rendering losses to lakhs of rupees. Thefire could not be controlled because of unavailability of fire tenders in the area. Residents of Sheeri claimed that it took 40 minutes for a fire and emergency service vehicle to reach the Sheeri market from Baramulla town.
The Narvaaw block and Boniyar tehsil consisting of more than 70 villages doesn’t have a single fire tender available for emergency services.
On December, 05 at least eight shops were gutted in a massive blaze in Fatehgarh area of Sheeri damaging property worth crores.
Similarly, in March this year, the famous Shrine of a Sufi saint was gutted in a fire incident at Nowshera Boniyar. According to locals the fire engulfed the shrine of Syed Sakhi (RA) and within a short span of time razed the structure, mainly built of wood, to ashes.
After witnessing massive fire incidents over the past few months, the people of Boniyar and Narvaaw areas of Baramulla fear some catastrophic situation in near future, if not dealt accordingly.
The residents said that there is not a single fire tender for around 70 villages and it may turn catastrophic. They blame the UT administration and district administration for the callous approach.
“For Boniyar and Narvaaw areas, there should be few advanced fire tenders which can cater to these hilly villages in any untoward situation. We again request the government to pay attention to such issues before it can turn into some catastrophe,”said Rayees Ahmad, a resident of Boniyar.
Mushtaq Ahmed, from Sheeri Narvaaw, a teacher by profession said that the non-availability of fire and emergency service is the main reason for huge damages caused due to fire incidents in the area.
“From last several years we have requested the administration of a fire tender but they don’t count us as humans. The 70 villages of tehsil Boniyar and Narvaaw block almost is half of the district Baramulla.
We have requested authorities time and again for a fire tender but every time our requests fell on dumb ears. They even assured us that it will be done very soon but years passed by and we are still waiting," Mushtaq said.
The residents claim that they had requested the administration for separate fire tenders at Sheeri and Boniyar so at times of fire incidents the damage could be lessened but till date they have not received any reply from the authorities.
Manzoor Ahmad Rather, a research scholar from Malpora village of Narvaaw said that several fire incidents were reported in the past few months damaging property worth crores.
"Narvaw is a hilly region and as per 2011 census record, it constitutes of 22 villages. But unfortunately we don't have a single fire and emergency service here. We are bestowed with the waters of Jehlum and there is enough state land at Sheeri but we are unable to understand what is stopping administration to provide fire tenders to this area," Manzoor Ahmad added.
In June 2022, fire break out residential house of Ghulam Mohammad Dar at Najar Mohalla of Pahlipora in Boniyar Baramulla. The house gutted in a fire mishap.
"The fire started from one room and within no time, it engulfed the whole house. We couldn’t do anything. Locals use buckets and other utensils to douse the fire. How can a bucket full of water douse the blazing fire?,” said Dar, whose house was gutted in the fire.
An official from fire and emergency department in Baramulla said that new land has been identified at Boniyar tehsil for a fire and emergency service departmentand the administration has submitted the proposal with the divisional commissioner.
“We are waiting for approval, once it is done, the station will cater to the whole of the area and a few areas of Uri also,” he said.
Bashir Ahmad Shah Joint Director Fire and Emergency Services told Rising Kashmir that the area deserves a separate fire station but approval from the government side is pending.
"We have recommended a list of 92 locations for establishing new fire stations in Kashmir and Boniyar area of Baramulla is one. The area deserves a fire and emergency station but lack of manpower and pendency of approval for establishing new stations from the government side is a hindrance," Shah added.
He said that there are around 114 fire and emergency service stations and a good number of these stations were established through internal arrangements.
"Due to internal arrangements, we had to distribute the main power at these new fire stations leaving the department short of main power. We are waiting for approval from the government for establishing new fire stations and recruitment of manpower simultaneously. Once it is done, we won't give it a second thought in establishing a fire and emergency service station in the Boniyar region," Bashir Ahmad Shah said.
The locals appealed the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to look into the matter and direct the authorities to establish a fire and emergency department in the area.