Fire-prone areas sans fire-fighting measures

ILAM: Even though markets in the eastern hilly region are fire prone as a majority of the houses are made of wood, no precautionary measure has been put in place.

Over the past eight years, catastrophic and heart-rending incidents of fire have occurred frequently in Tehrathum, Taplejung, Panchthar and Ilam. However, no measures have been taken to prevent incidents of fire and bring such calamities under control. On the contrary, people have been relying on drinking water pipelines and water fetched from far distances to ward off the fire from spreading during a breakout.

Last February, a fire that broke out in Ilam bazaar engulfed 10 houses. To avert the fire from spreading, 10 other houses were pulled down.

When a fire broke out in Fungling Bazaar, district headquarters of Taplejung, six years ago, 45 houses were completely destroyed. According to Santosh Khatiwada, chairman of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) Taplejung chapter, as Fungling bazaar has narrow roads, water pipelines are the only alternative to douse the fire.

After fire caused massive damage in Phidim, the district headquarters of Panchthar, last January, the FNCCI Panchthar chapter discussed purchasing a fire engine but in vain. Likewise, Taplejung, Panchthar and Tehrathum also lack fire brigade service. Fire engine in Ilam Municipality is out of service and is being repaired in Birtamod.

Being aware that the areas are fire prone, locals of Ilam had demanded construction of a water reservoir. But the leaders of political parties opted for constructing a martyr's pillar instead at Chowk Bazaar two years ago.

Mitra Kafle, central member of the FNCCI accused the government of not being serious towards the locals' plight. "The hilly areas are full of wooden houses and are highly vulnerable to fire," he said, adding, "The state, civil society and other stakeholders need to make efforts and stay prepared for the fire that can break out anytime."