With a rise in the mercury and phase-wise relaxations of the coronavirus lockdown, the control room of the Delhi Fire Services has witnessed a surge in fire-related calls since the mid week of May, officials said on Sunday.
During the four phases of the nationwide lockdown, there was an overall drop of 36 per cent fire-related calls since March 25 to May 31 as compared to the same period last year, according to the data shared by the fire department.
In April, it received 1,801 fire-related calls as against 3,081 calls during the same month last year. There were 2,328 fire-related calls in May as compared to 3,316 last year.
The fire department has registered a drop of 41.5 per cent in calls in April this year.
In the starting of May, the calls were comparatively less due to the strict enforcement of lockdown, during which factories and business were shut, people were mostly at homes and stepped outside only in case of an emergency or for essential needs.
But, later, there was an increase in calls towards since May 15, according to fire officials.
Delhi Fire Services Director Atul Garg cited the rise in temperature and easing of the lockdown for the surge in fire-related calls.
According to Garg, when Delhi recorded a maximum of 47.6 degrees Celsius on May 26, the department received 145 fire-related calls, which was the highest for the month.
The same day, the city also witnessed two major fire incidents. However, no casualties were reported.
A major fire broke out in a three-storey shoe factory at Keshav Puram in northwest Delhi in the early hours of May 26. Twenty-three fire tenders were rushed to the spot and the blaze was brought under control within four hours with the help of around 50 firefighters.
The incident occurred hours after around 250 shanties were gutted in a blaze that broke out at a Tughlaqabad village in southeast Delhi around 12.50 am.
The maximum fire incidents were either reported from shanties, buildings, shut offices or houses either due to short-circuit or leakage in LPG cylinders among various other reasons.
As malls, restaurants and other avenues will reopen from Monday, the Delhi Fire Services has advised everyone to do servicing of air-conditioners and other electrical appliances, as well as the fire-fighting systems checked before opening offices.
Garg said the fire department was facing a two-fold challenge to rescue the people and also save the personnel from the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
"In cases, where human life is involved, our first priority is to save the life with due precautions against COVID-19," the official said. "Presently, we have an internal protocol that is followed."
In case, rescue is needed, two firefighters will venture inside with proper gears like mask, gloves, face shield. After rescue, they will immediately sanitise themselves thoroughly, Garg said.
One such important rescue-operation was carried out at Cygnus Orthocare hospital in south Delhi on May 23. Eight coronavirus patients were evacuated safely after a fire broke out in an operation theatre and recovery room at the third floor of the hospital.
Unlike healthcare workers, the firefighters cannot wear personal protective equipment (PPE) since it contains plastic, Garg added.
"We do not know if the person likely to be rescued is infected with the virus or not," Garg said, while elucidating about the challenges faced during rescue operations.
"It's risky and our firefighters need to take utmost precuations".