Ctg depot fire: How certain people’s actions are discouraging future frontliners
"Speed, service, sacrifice."
These three words are embedded in the motto of Bangladesh's Department of Fire Service and Civil Defence. And those involved in this service almost always do their best to live up to those words.
Firefighters are some of the many frontliners who sign up for their jobs knowing the risks. When they agree to join the force, they're immediately putting their lives at stake. At any given time, they can lose their lives in line of duty. Yet, they go ahead with the job at hand, because they know that if not them, no one else is there to come to the rescue of those in need.
Unfortunately, it seems that we have taken their sacrifices over the years for granted. Just because they signed up for a job that puts their lives at risk doesn't mean that we're allowed to show no concern for their safety. Just because it's their duty to walk into dangerous situations doesn't mean that we should simply let them do so without telling them what they're getting into.
This is exactly what happened a couple of days ago in Chittagong when containers at the BM Container Depot near the city caught fire and later exploded, killing around 50 people (the number is rising) and wounding hundreds of others. Many of those who lost their lives were firefighters, working in close proximity to the initial fire before the container exploded.
As per reports, the firefighters attempting to put out the blaze were never told that the container on fire was storing hazardous chemicals, which is why, instead of using a chemical tender or specialised foam to douse the fire, they went to the site with regular firefighting equipment. Had the concerned authorities notified the firefighters about it, we probably wouldn't have lost so many innocent and brave lives to that fire.
This is my entire problem with the fire incident in Chittagong – the apathetic attitude of some people led to much of the catastrophe. What's even more infuriating is that the chemical containers weren't supposed to be there in the first place. It seems the Nimtoli fire in 2010 did very little to show our country's business people what unplanned urbanisation, building code violations, and delving into a culture of not following the law can do. Sadly, it's unlikely that the Chittagong depot fire will be able to put some sense into them either.
However, one thing it will do is eventually discourage our youth and future generations from taking up roles that demand such high risk-taking.
Whatever the pay is will always be too little, given the fact that they have to risk their lives for it. On top of that, there are people whose negligence often leads to more damage and loss of lives than it naturally would've been, like the fire incident in Chittagong.
The chemicals weren't supposed to be there, but they still were. So, when the fire department arrived, why did the responsible authorities not mention it? It is this neglectful attitude that speaks to those who might've wanted to take up the mantles at some point, but are now having second thoughts about it.
And can you blame them? It's a risky job as is. Taking the risk without knowing what they're up against is an entirely different ball game, one that none of them signed up for. You could tell me that this is an isolated incident, and that there are situations where the cause or source of such a fire could be unknown to everyone.
However, that's a different case, where no one is withholding information they know. Here, not only did they store chemicals in a place they shouldn't have, but also withhold that information when the firefighters needed it the most.
What's worse is that those who do end up losing their lives will probably get no justice. Had it been a different country, those responsible for the negligence would perhaps have been tried for manslaughter. Here, we don't know whether or not justice will prevail. The common procedure of sending out cheques to the victims' families, however, will prevail. While the intention here is a good one, what good will it do to a mother or father who knows that they didn't have to part ways with their child like this.
Nimtoli, Tazreen Garments, Rana Plaza, FR Tower, and now the fire at BM Container Depot in Chittagong. Our brave firefighters did all they could with what they had, but for how long will they continue doing so, knowing that these incidents could've been avoided, and that their jobs could've been somewhat less riskier?