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77 fire tenders more than 15 years old 

Chandigarh: After the building collapse in Ludhiana on Monday, the Department of Local Government has decided to revive its communication channel with the Centre to seek funds to overcome heavy shortfall in the fire-fighting machinery and manpower in the state.At least 77 among the existing 239 fire tenders are more than 15 years old. As per the standards forwarded by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the state has less than half the required strength of at least 550.Abohar has two fire tenders that are more than 40 years old. Other places which had more than 30-year-old equipment are Hoshiarpur, Bathinda, Mohali, Gidderbaha, Malout, Muktsar, Fazilka, Patiala, Pathankot and Khanna.Accepting the ill-preparedness of the department, Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu said, “We have come up with a Fire Directorate. But we have skeletal staff. We also have inadequate machinery. We have written to the Centre demanding Rs 100 crore to tide over the immediate problem.”The department recently gave 69 fire tenders to different towns and cities. A number of those till date have no drivers or fire staff.AAP MLA from Sunam Aman Arora said, “In July, Sunam got one fire tender. But no driver or any other staff has been assigned till date. The story is the same at several other places.“I have written to the department demanding staff for the fire tender,” he said.Except for a single aerial ladder turntable fire tender in Mohali, none of the big cities in the state, including Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala, is equipped to fight fire in high-rise buildings.A senior Congress leader said, “The Ludhiana incident has once again shown how ill-equipped our firemen are. They do not even have proper clothing. I was appalled to hear that some of them had to wear wet clothes to cover their bodies during the fire. They were not even insured.”Sidhu said, “The SAD-BJP government did nothing. It got a Rs 10-crore project, but the amount lapsed as it remained unutilised. Then there was Rs 90 crore grant. Only Rs 17 crore was used.”

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