Behind The Sirens: Dimapur Firefighters Share Their Experiences - Eastern Mirror
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Behind the sirens: Dimapur firefighters share their experiences

By Moakala T Aier Updated: May 10, 2024 12:01 am
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DIMAPUR — In Dimapur, Nagaland’s commercial capital, two fire stations stand as bastions of safety– Fire Station Central, with its 42 dedicated firemen, and Fire Station West, manned by 18 equally committed individuals. Equipped with a fleet of fire trucks, they form the city’s first line of defence against the devastating power of fire.

This year alone, they have collectively tackled 28 fire incidents, each call a testament to their unwavering courage. But beyond the statistics and the flashing lights, there lies a deeper story — one of human struggles, personal sacrifices, and the profound impact of this demanding profession.

To understand the realities faced by these brave individuals, Eastern Mirror spoke with five firefighters from both stations. Levi Khing, Rongsenwati, and Ngukato Sema, who serve at Fire Station Central, along with Lanso Y Ngullie and driver Yepeto Muru from Fire Station West, shared their experiences, offering a glimpse into the challenges and realities of their profession.

Dimapur firefighters
Levi Khing

For Levi Khing, a 41-year-old father of two with a decade of service under his belt, the memory of his first fire alarm remains vivid. The pounding heart, the surge of fear – these were the initial reactions when he heard the first alarm. However, with each subsequent alarm, his fears subsided and a growing sense of duty took its place. “I don’t fear the fire anymore,” he said.

Ngukato Sema, who has served in Mon and Dimapur districts, highlighted the stark difference between the two districts. “In Dimapur, extra preparedness is required,” he explained, citing the dense population and numerous houses as factors that amplify the potential impact of fire incidents.

The challenges are numerous, but Ngukato said he approaches them with a proactive mindset, always asking himself, “What next step can I take to overcome my challenges?”

Dimapur firefighters
Ngukato sema

Their stories reveal the transformation from initial fear to unwavering resolve, the constant battle against time and traffic, and the unwavering dedication to serving the community, even in the face of public misunderstanding and personal risk.

Prompt response

“It is by default that once a fire call comes in, within one minute, we are expected to dress up and turn up in less than three minutes,” said Levi. However, Dimapur’s traffic congestion and narrow roads, as well as lack of information about the exact location of fire often present significant hurdles. Sometimes, the firefighters even resort to manually managing traffic to ensure a swift passage for their fire trucks, he said.

According to Rongsenwati, “Once the fire call comes in, the firemen are alarmed; gear up, and within 1-2 minutes, it is mandatory to be inside the fire truck and on our way.”

Dimapur firefighters

He explained that the process extends beyond extinguishing the flames, as the firefighters also have to conduct thorough checks for trapped individuals. The commander finally checks if all equipment have been put back in place, and then the report will be taken from the house owners.

However, delays can occur, often due to factors beyond their control. Ngukato pointed out that not everyone has the fire brigade’s contact information readily available, leading to precious lost minutes.

He went on to explain that, “If it is a bamboo-thatch house, the house would have burned down by the time we are contacted.”

“Our turn-up is 2 minutes after an alarm, and till date, even before the 2 minutes are up, we are already ready and inside the vehicle, but the traffic along the way may hamper the quickness,” he said.

Despite such challenges, and the occasional blame from the public, “we cannot be affected by it. Our satisfaction lies in the fact that we reach the spot on time, douse the flame, help the affected, and wrap up our work,” Ngukato affirmed.

Negative public perceptions

Addressing negative public perceptions they have encountered on or off duty, Rongsenwati explained that when a fire alarm goes off, no matter what a fireman is doing at that moment, be it having meals, they must attend the fire call leaving aside the food.

“Public think that we are Superman or Spiderman, in the sense that they will make a call, and right at that instant, we are expected to reach the site,” he said.

Lanso echoed this sentiment, and recalled incidents when they encountered comments like, “They came only after the fire burned everything down.”

Dimapur firefighters
Lanso Y Ngullie

In this connection, he emphasised the need for understanding, explaining that houses are made of different types of materials, and particularly ‘kaccha’ houses that are made with flammable materials, are prone to rapid escalation.

Further, “We also watch YouTube videos of fire incidents and read the many comments of the public,” Lanso shared. Negative comments like, ‘They are getting paid and just sitting’ or ‘they only come once the fire is over’, can be disheartening, he said.

Appealing for empathy, he said, “It is my request to the public to please be kind and understanding towards  us. In our own capacity, we are also trying our best.”

Meanwhile, Yepeto Muru, a fire truck driver, shed light on the challenges faced from his perspective.

Dimapur firefighters
Yepeto muru

He urged the public to consider the limitations imposed by Dimapur’s traffic conditions. “They shouldn’t expect a big vehicle like ours to manoeuvre and get past the traffic seamlessly,” he said.

He also noted comments about the fire trucks not having adequate water, and asked, “If we are not bringing enough water, then why are we even here?”

“We are also trying our best to be on time and to salvage what we can, as we swore before joining service that we will save people, livestock and property, which is our duty,” he added.

This is the first in a two-part series.

By Moakala T Aier Updated: May 10, 2024 12:01:50 am
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