Dimapur's Firefighters: A Glimpse Into Lives Of Courage And Sacrifice - Eastern Mirror
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Dimapur’s Firefighters: A glimpse into lives of courage and sacrifice

By Moakala T Aier Updated: May 10, 2024 11:50 pm
Dimapur's Firefighters
Firefighters in action during a fire incident in Dimapur. (Representational Image)

DIMAPUR — In the heart of Dimapur, a group of dedicated firefighters stand ready to face danger and protect their community from the devastating effects of fire.

Beyond the sirens and flashing lights, these firefighters carry the weight of immense responsibility, facing not only the physical risks of their profession but also the emotional toll of witnessing loss and tragedy.

In this report, Levi Khing, Rongsenwati, and Ngukato Sema, who serve at Fire Station Central, Dimapur along with Lanso Y Ngullie and driver Yepeto Muru from Fire Station West, share their personal experiences, offering a glimpse into the challenges they overcome, the sacrifices they make, and the commitment that fuels their service.

The transition from training to real-life scenarios is stark, as Rongsenwati who trained in Odisha explained. While training involves simulations with dummies, the reality of firefighting involves dealing with human lives.

“Going for firefighting is always a risk, flames are burning. We do not know what will happen and when. But we have been trained for this purpose so even if there is risk involved, there is no other way but to go ahead”, the 30-year-old firefighter explained.

For Levi, the awareness of potential danger has become a habit and he has learned to embrace this risk as an inherent part of his duty. “Others cannot douse the flames but we are here keeping in mind how to quickly douse the flames. We do not think much about our lives being at a risk and just go ahead to serve”, the fireman said.

“Our first priority is saving human lives,” shared Ngukato.

While he has fortunately avoided serious injuries, he recounted having close calls with exploding cylinders. “By the grace of God I have been saved”, he said.

Similarly, Lanso also points out that the potential for cylinder explosions poses a significant threat.

Explaining further, he said that entering unfamiliar homes filled with smoke and fire makes it difficult to locate cylinders. “Between the smoke and fire, we cannot go on looking for the cylinders, and it is when cylinders burst that our chances to survive become lesser,” he said.

Despite this, Lanso remains committed to their motto, “We serve to save,” and said that he strives to uphold this motto in every situation.

The physical demands of firefighting also take a toll. Handling high-pressure hoses can cause burn marks, while falling debris such as wooden beams can lead to minor injuries. These are just some of the everyday hazards they face on the job.

Lanso, with over seven years of experience, highlighted the external challenges that hinder their response times. Delayed information from the public, narrow roads, traffic congestion, and uncooperative drivers all contribute to the difficulties they face in reaching the scene of a fire promptly.

Teamwork and strategy

Ngukato, at 38 years old, acknowledged the inherent dangers and uncertainties of firefighting, and at the same time, emphasised the critical role of teamwork, coordination, and strategic planning in mitigating these risks.

“Firefighting is teamwork and coordination and not individual work. Strategy plays a key role here. It is not that we just hold the hose and go ahead blindly. There is danger, it is a given. Along with that, we need to be safe and at the same time others’ property must also be saved. We employ this strategy and it often saves us from untoward incidents like injury, and property can also be saved effectively,” he explained.

In situations where multiple homes are affected by a fire, the firefighters face the challenge of prioritising their efforts. While each family desires to save their own property, the limitations of resources and equipment require strategic decision-making. In such scenarios, they analyse the origin and spread of the fire, consider wind direction, and rely on the expertise of the team commander to make crucial decisions that will contain the fire and minimise overall damage.

Fire truck driver’s perspective

In any typical day, there will be two drivers and four firemen in action, said Yepeto, the 37-year-old driver.

“On normal days, the firemen may rest without their shoes but for me, as a driver, I cannot remove my shoes even for a minute because if there is a fire alarm, the firemen can even put on shoes inside a moving vehicle but for a driver, we do not have the option as it depends on us to reach on time. I am expected to start the vehicle within 30 seconds of the alarm so time is less for the drivers,” he said.

Further, the driver’s responsibilities extend beyond just navigating the fire truck to the scene. Once they arrive, they take on the role of a pump operator, controlling the water pressure according to the firefighters’ signals. They also manage water supply, ensuring the firefighters have the resources needed to combat the blaze.

Effective communication is crucial, and according to their training, they use whistles to communicate and convey instructions amidst the noise and distance.

Sharing about the emotional toll of witnessing tragedy, Muru recounted an incident in 2022 where he encountered an elderly woman who perished in a fire.

“It hurt me to see her that way but since nothing could be done, I made peace with the incident,” Muru said.

Lanso, aged 32, reflected on the rigorous training they undergo outside Nagaland and the oath they take upon joining the service. He acknowledged the responsibility they carry, not just for their livelihood but also for the well-being of the community. On duty, he comes across people who wail and cry as they lose everything in fire, especially students who lose their documents, clothes and other belongings which they have saved over the years, and moments like these reinforce the importance of their duty and the need for diligence in their actions, he said.

Rongsenwati shared a personal experience of a challenging fire incident at Khermahal, where a nearby cylinder explosion tested his courage.

“I was scared but I had to go ahead with my duty. I did not intend to join this profession, let’s say I came here because of luck, all is God’s plan,” he said.

For Ngukato, his perspective on firefighting underwent a complete transformation after joining the profession

He admitted to previously holding misconceptions and engaging in blaming fire brigades for perceived shortcomings. “But once I joined, my opinion totally changed. And I fell in love with the job. Being a firefighter, this is one of the best feelings,” he said.

These firemen respond to fire alarms like their own homes were ablaze, and that in itself embodies a level of sacrifice that is truly unparalleled.

This is the last of a two-part series.

Also read: Behind the sirens: Dimapur firefighters share their experiences

By Moakala T Aier Updated: May 10, 2024 11:50:47 pm
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