LAHORE – Around 37,000 fire incidents took place across Punjab during the past five years, resulting in a loss of Rs18.133 billion, reveals a consolidated report on fire emergencies (2007-2012) released by the Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) the other day.

The report further claimed that the Rescue 1122 – which has a modern Fire Wing with 137 fire vehicles, 41 water bowsers and seven water rescue vans – saved property worth Rs100 billion in the province during this period.

“The Punjab Civil Defence Department, which used to respond to fire cases before the inception of the Rescue 1122, has now been given a new assignment to tackle blasts,” informed sources said. They added outdated fire vehicles and aged firefighters of the department had failed to achieve the desired results.

Considering this, the Punjab government has provided the latest bomb disposal vans and state-of-the-art robots, which can command the entire operation on the site of possible terror strike, to the Civil Defence Department.

A deputy inspector general of Punjab Police, however, said the modern technology provided to the department should ideally have be handed over to either Rescue 1122 or the Police, since the two departments had swift and easy access to crime scenes.

Official figures obtained from the Rescue 1122’s Provincial Monitoring Cell show that – in fire incidents during the past five years – 1,932 people sustained burn injuries; 674 victims were provided first aid, and 997 were shifted to the burn units of different hospitals where 261 of them were pronounced dead.

Of the total incidents, the cause of 16,624 was short circuiting; of 1,630 gas leakage; of 346 explosion of LPG cylinder; of 4,427 carelessness or smoking; of 280 fireworks; of 552 candle or heater, of 155 kitchen fire, of 392 forest fire, of 8,991 unknown; and of 3,452 yet to be ascertained.

The Rescue 1122 responded to 11,049 fire cases in Lahore; 3,010 in Rawalpindi; 4,756 in Faisalabad; 2,784 in Multan; 2,741 in Gujranwala; 1,988 in Sialkot; 1,143 in Sargodha; 1,059 in Sahiwal; 958 in Dera Ghazi Khan; and 822 in Rahim Yar Khan during this period.

The report reveals that fire erupted because of short circuiting in 5,876 factories, industrial units, houses, shops, shopping malls and trade markets in Lahore, followed by Faisalabad with 2,500 and Rawalpindi with 1,335.

Carelessness and smoking were the reasons behind 578 fire cases in Multan, 333 in Gujranwala and 323 in Sahiwal. Also, fire rescuers and lead fire rescuers had to extinguish 138 forest fire cases in Murree, 131 in Rawalpindi and 31 in Jhelum.

“The Rescue 1122 has developed a special fire wing within its limited resources and imparted special training to its staff by hiring master trainers and the results are visible,” Rescue 1122 Director General Dr Rizwan Naseer told TheNation. He said American and British safety codes could not be implemented overnight in Pakistan because of multiple financial, strategic and structural reasons, but the service had at least introduced the basic fire safety codes.