Fire: Turning festivity into tragedy

Monday Musing

[ M Doley ]

Winter months bring festivities home. These are the days we spend time with family and friends, eat special food and treats. But the festive season can also be a time when house-fires can bring tragedy and snatch the joy out of the festivities.
Fire mishaps, especially in Arunachal Pradesh, have become a matter of serious concern with worrying reports of such incidents pouring in from various places every other day.
A fire can start any time, at any place, even from a tiny spark from a worn-out electrical wire or a burning cigarette, reducing homes and properties to ashes and claiming lives within a matter of seconds.
Electric short-circuit is often blamed as one of the major causes of fires in Arunachal Pradesh. This may be due to incomplete electrical installation and illegal tapping of electricity through hooking.
It is true that fires are caused almost entirely by people through their actions, which may be accidental or deliberate, or because of their failure to take precaution.
We should not forget that a fire can start only when the source of ignition comes into contact with combustible materials.
Sitting around a fire with family and friends during winter can be enjoyable, but we must exercise caution while using wood-burning fireplace as a little carelessness can cost dearly.
It is said that waste and rubbish are friends of fire. Hence, cigarette butts that are thrown unmindfully can ignite a fire.
There are also numerous incidents of fires caused by burning candles. Hence, it is safe to extinguish them before going to sleep or leaving the room.
Welcoming the new year with fireworks has become a tradition in Arunachal, especially in the urban areas. But, it may pose a great danger if used improperly. Houses, especially those made of cane and bamboos, are susceptible to such fireworks.
More importantly, utmost precaution must be taken while cooking on gas stoves – and be sure to stay in the kitchen while cooking.
It may be recalled that 57 houses were reduced to ashes and an elderly woman was charred to death in a devastating fire in Wakka village in Longding on 22 December, 2016.
In August this year, 37 houses were reduced to ashes in Tadin village. In 2015, 14 houses were gutted in the same village.
Last month, 10 houses were devastated in Hari village in Lower Subansiri district while five people were charred to death in another fire incident in Ziro a couple of days later.
Considering the gravity of the situation, a state level committee under the chairmanship of the Principal Secretary (Home) had been constituted last year with Secretary (Relief and Rehabilitation) and Director (Fire Services) as members to check frequent fire accidents.
Instructions were also issued for formation of a committee in each district headed by the Deputy Commissioner with SP as member secretary.
The extent of damages caused by fires in Arunachal is generally high because of limited fire tenders and fire-fighting equipment, inaccessibility to fire-accident sites due to unplanned construction and narrow approach roads. The fire-fighters are also often accused of late arrival. However, it is a matter to be investigated.