River communications are much easier than communications by road in the town of Patuakhali as well as in the riverine district. For apparent reasons, the Fire Service and Civil Defence decided to set up a river station by the Laukathi river in the town.
However, six years after a three-storey building for the river station was built at a cost around Tk 5 crore, thousands of locals are yet to reap its benefits as the fire station still does not have any fire boat, water ambulance or any other necessary firefighting equipment.
It is an irony that a water ambulance — went out of order within a several years after it was purchased in the ‘80s — of the town fire station is left to rot by the newly built pontoon of the river station.
While the new building of the river station was inaugurated on September 25, 2013 by then local lawmaker Advocate Shahjahan Mia, the construction of the pontoon for the station was completed only around eight months ago, in March this year.
Appointments in almost all posts, 12 out of 14, for the river station were completed in April this year, but even the topmost official of the service in Patuakhali town is still unsure of when the station will receive its firefighting equipment.
Confirming that 12 of the new recruits joined the river station on April 4, Station Officer Sohel Ahmed said the personnel have been sitting idle without necessary equipment including fire boats and water ambulances.
Businessman Khairul Mridha from Badrua Bazar in Galachipa upazila said people are not getting any benefit from the new river station for years.
As many as 15 shops and three houses in the area burned down in fire on Monday, he said, adding that the amount of damage could have been reduced if the river station was in operation as it would take less time for fire boats to reach the spot as opposed to fire trucks driving on narrow roads.
Assistant Director Nazrul Islam of the fire service in Patuakhali town said the river station could not go in operation although it has its pontoon, a building and manpower.
All decisions regarding the setting up of the river station is made at the fire service headquarters in Dhaka and “I have no information on the matter,” he added.