India engages Armed Forces to reduce fire threat

India engages Armed Forces to reduce fire threat

Mandeep Singh

Fires are causing so many deaths in India that the country’s Ministry of Defence has deemed the situation a security threat that requires military intervention.

The ministry has established a center to train defense personnel in firefighting and fire prevention. An average of 14,284 people in India died from fires each year between 2015 and 2019, according to government records. The deaths mostly occurred in homes and businesses in urban settings. Moreover, 257,000 hectares of land were affected by forest fires in India in 2019, the latest year such statistics are available.

The Skill Development Centre (SDC) for Fire Safety Training of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was inaugurated by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on February 22, 2021. It sits on 24 hectares in Pilkhuwa, a city in Uttar Pradesh, a state that contains 16,582 square kilometers of forest, nearly half of which is considered fire-prone.

Singh emphasized the tragedy of losing “precious lives and valuable assets” to fire, according to a ministry news release. “To prevent such losses, this Training Centre will go a long way in ensuring quality training to the personnel and preventing such mishaps.”

In addition to firefighter training, the SDC will develop fire safety technology and products, the ministry stated, and will use advanced simulation systems to create realistic training environments. (Pictured: A firefighter watches smoke billow from a fire at the Ghazipur landfill outside New Delhi in November 2020.)

The center’s fire drill tower has an emergency escape chute for simulating fires in high-rise buildings. There’s also a breathing apparatus training facility; a model fire station with rescue equipment; a fire suit test and evaluation facility; and a petroleum fire simulator.

The first trainees are expected to come from the Indian Armed Forces’ Defense Fire Service, the Indian Coast Guard, the DRDO and defense factories that produce ordnance and other products.

Bhutan and Sri Lanka have agreed to send trainees, with other neighboring countries invited to do so, the ministry said.

Bhutan recorded 1,403 forest fires between 2010 and 2020, the country’s Kuensel newspaper reported. Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Center said that country averages 50 to 200 forest fires annually.


Mandeep Singh is a FORUM contributor reporting from New Delhi, India.