Abdul Majid Wani’s efforts prevented a major catastrophe and saved not just properties worth millions but many lives too.
When Wani, 55, went up to the third storey of the building aiming to contain the flames, little did he know it would be the last time he would be performing his job. He fell, grievously injuring himself, which ultimately resulted in his death.
He was appointed to the Fire and Emergency Services department in 1989 and served across the valley. His relatives, who said he was dedicated to his profession, demanded that he be flown out for treatment. However, the authorities said his condition was so grave that he could not be shifted to any other facility.
Locals and the traders of the area commended his efforts as he not only saved property worth millions but also saved many lives. It was due to the efforts of Majid and his team that the fire was brought under control.
Immediately after the accident, he was taken to Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital, where he was treated for a severe spinal cord injury.
The doctors said,
He was in a very bad condition when he was brought here; he had grievous spinal cord injury. He also had injuries on his neck and head.
As he was admitted to SHMS’s Special Intensive Care Unit (SICU), the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar, Dr Syed Abid Rashid Shah, visited to enquire about his health.
Dr. Shah, while consoling the family of the injured fireman, assured them of the best possible treatment and care. He also handed a relief amount to the family, saying the district administration owed Wani a lot for his valiant efforts and would make sure that hewas offered not just the best possible treatment and medical care but also appropriately rewarded.
Wani battled for life for seven days but unfortunately succumbed to his injuries on the evening of December 16. Later, he was brought home for final cremation.
Minister for Education Syed Muhammad Altaf Bukhari visited his residence where he assured the bereaved family that they would get due compensation including a job under the relevant SRO.
And I am also for a strong recommendation for a gallantry award to the deceased. I offer my highest respects and deepest condolences to the family of this brave and courageous man.
Increase in number of fire incidents
It has been noted that there has been an increase in the number of fire-related incidents in the valley — a rise of 15 percent in the last one year.
It’s not just the residential or commercial areas which have fallen victim to such tragic incidents; earlier reports suggested Kashmir’s famous shrines are also vulnerable to such incidents. Just a few days ago, a commercial area in Srinagar’s Gojwara caught fire, reducing six shops to ashes. On December 12, Central University of Kashmir, Nowgam campus, caught fire due to lack of safety measures by the institute.
In 2012, Syed Abdul Qadir’s shrine at Khanyar in the old town caught fire, damaging the entire structure. A few weeks ago, Kashmir’s revered shrine, Khanqah-e-Moula, was engulfed in fire, damaging the top part of its structure partially.
The interiors of these shrines are made up of carved wood and decorated with papermache, which is highly combustible, requiring extra safety measures.
Director of relief and disaster management,PMU-JTFRP,Aamir Ali told YourStory that there is a lack of awareness about fire safety among people in the valley.
Unfortunately, not many commercial hubs have fire extinguishers installed at their units and a lot of them have expired ones.
“Safety audit should be made mandatory for all,” he added.
After the Khanqah incident, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti ordered that safety audits of all shrines across the valley.
Lack of manpower in fire department
To make matters worse, Kashmir’s Fire and Emergency Services department lacks manpower. Deputy Director, F&ES, Muhammad Akbar Dar, told a local daily,
There was a shortage of nearly 1,500 men. At present, we have only one Fire Precaution Cell to look after the entire valley, which is not sufficient. We have only 2,164 staff looking after all fire incidents in the state. There is a lot of shortage in manpower.
Interestingly, the department had published an advertisement in March 2013 inviting applicants for various posts. Around 14,000 applicants were shortlisted and after keeping the candidates hanging for three years, the department cancelled the selection process without issuing any notification.