x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Civil Defence searching for recruits and building stations

Civil Defence commanders are adding hundreds of highly trained firemen and several new fire stations.

DUBAI // Civil Defence commanders are adding hundreds of highly trained firemen and several new fire stations following an unprecedented number of large and lethal fires. There are 110 men being put through their paces at the Civil Defence training centre in Al Aweer - 75 have recently finished school or college, while the remainder have served in the army or police force. They are expected to finish training by the end of this month.

"There will be five new fire stations in Dubai by the end of year and some will go there, while the others will replace men who have retired and used to increase the number of men per station," said Capt Juma Mohammed al Basada, the head of Dubai Civil Defence. The hunt for new recruits continues, as the department tries to keep up with the fire risks associated with the continued construction boom.

"We are currently advertising for the next enrolment, which will be just under 100 recruits, that will be ready at the end of the year to keep in line with the civil defence five-year plan," said Capt Basada. Dubai has seen a drop in the overall number of fires but a rise in large-scale blazes. These have stretched the force to the limit and claimed the lives of many residents and firemen. Last week, 11 men died when a villa in the Naif area of Dubai, which was housing up to 500 workers, caught fire during the night.

On March 26, two people were killed when an illegal fireworks factory caught fire, destroying 83 warehouses and causing Dh1 billion (US$272 million) in damage at Al Quoz. A week later, a man suffered 90-degree burns to his body in a fire at another warehouse in Al Quoz. On April 2, more than 180 shops were destroyed after a fire broke out in the historic Naif Souk in Deira. The market, which was 30 years old, had become a focal point for the community and hundreds of shop owners lost their livelihoods in the blaze. A temporary site for the market has opened nearby, while a rebuilt Naif Souk is to open next year.

On May 2, two firemen, Kamal Hussain Saleh and Hatham Tarik Larban, died from smoke inhalation tackling a blaze that burnt for 10 hours at a materials warehouse on Palm Jumeirah. Civil Defence believes in training firemen to world-class standards and selecting the best firefighting tactics from around the world and adapting them for Dubai. "We are always looking for special standards from different countries and different codes of practice," said Capt Basada.

"The officers gain professional certificates from countries like Singapore and Canada and then train the men here." Even if firemen follow all the rules, every time teams are called out, their lives are on the line and some may not return, said Capt Basada. "For us, everything is dangerous," he said. "If you are prepared for fire-fighting there are still dangers and some make mistakes." @email:garis@thenational.ae