INDIA – Kanyakumari: Considering the vast forest cover and increasing incidents of fires, the fire and rescue department has started training youths from forests and adjoining areas as volunteers. They will help the fire and rescue services and forest department protect forests from fires.
“We are in the process of identifying at least 400 volunteers. They will be associated with four stations – Nagercoil, Kulasekaram, Kuzhithurai and Padmanabhapuram – as these stations have a major forest cover in their jurisdiction,” said Kanyakumari district fire officer (DFO) B Saravanababu after the first training programme on Monday.
“The programme was started on the directions of the DGP and director in-charge of the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services department C Sylendra Babu a couple of days back. As many as 90 volunteers were identified till Monday and the rest will be identified in a couple of weeks,” the DFO said.
It is learnt that the district with one of the largest forest covers in the state has seven fire stations with only 100 fire fighters, due to which not more than 50 personnel will be on duty in the district in each of the two shifts in a day. This presses the need for volunteers especially from the forest periphery. Fighting forest fires is difficult compared to fires in urban areas due to inaccessible terrain without roads and availability of fuel in the form of dry grass, bushes and wood.
Since fire tenders would take time for the fighters to reach the nearest accessible road that is at times 25 to 30 kms from the station, the volunteers will be the first to step into action. “The best way to fight a forest fire is to stop it early before it spreads,” he said. Identification was carried out on a war footing as the number of fire calls in the district increased from 22 in December 2019 to 57 in January. At least 15 calls this month were forest fires. This is due to heavy growth of bushes and grass facilitated by rains till last month. Training and engaging them in fire-fighting will be after verification of their background by the forest and police departments. On Monday training began for 25 students of Vins Christian College of Engineering at the foothills of Chunkankadai near Nagercoil.