When we learn that procedural delays have held up the procurement of much-needed modern equipment for our fire services for the last five years, it gives us pause to think that perhaps fire hazards and firefighting were not high in the list of priorities of policymakers. The project costing Tk 226 crore that commenced in 2014 should have been completed this year, but now that the city has experienced repeated fires and rising casualty figures, one can only hope that the tendering process will be sped up.
When lives are at stake, why is the process of buying essential equipment needed to fight fires effectively held up on account of lengthy bureaucratic procedures? It's high time we cut through red tape and procured such equipment on a fast-track basis.
While fire service officials are hopeful about getting new equipment soon, we should take lessons from the recent fire incidents. It is not merely about buying new gear, but buying those pieces of equipment that can be properly used given the nature of the built-up areas in the city, which brings us to the question of availability of water. Sadly, Dhaka city is sorely lacking in fire hydrants; this seriously impedes the work of firefighters whenever a fire breaks out in this congested city of ours. Replenishing water becomes an impossible task for fire trucks because given the manner in which Dhaka city has filled up lakes and water bodies to make way for commercial buildings, there simply isn't any water available readily.
This is why urban planners and experts have stressed on building requisite hydrants that can be tapped into in case of a fire like the one that engulfed FR Tower in Banani. We can only hope that the loss of some 100 lives over the last two months caused by a series of fires will give the impetus needed to re-equip our fire service department with the tools it needs to fight fire effectively.