The last time I reported on the fire brigades of Kathmandu, the city was at an extremely high risk of fire. Well, nothing much has changed in the past one and half years. Kathmandu has acquired one new fire brigade – generously donated by Japan. But sadly, this is the only one now in good working condition. “If there is a bigger fire in Kathmandu, we can’t do anything,” says a fire brigade official. Just a few weeks back it took three hours for the brigade to control a fire 100 meters away from its office.
The risk has increased with the growing number of buildings in Kathmandu and the growing population. The same official says, “We have the capacity to throw water up to 7 stories, but since 17 storied buildings are being built in Kathmandu, we are finding it hard to deal with the situation.”
In the previous fire in Kathmandu, private water tanks had to be used because the capital was facing an acute water shortage. Fire brigades often have to look far and wide to collect enough water. “It’s another major problem. By the time the fire brigade has collected enough water, the fire has usually taken an even more devastating form,” the official says.
The nearby city of Bhaktapur has two fire brigades, but none of the fire brigades in the Lalitpur district is in working condition. If there were a fire in two consecutive places within the valley at the same time – and keep in mind, there were around 40 fires in the valley in the last two weeks alone – officials say they wouldn’t be able to control the fire.
– Rajneesh Bhandari