Rai serves as the Deputy Chief Fire Officer at Sikkim Fire and Emergency Services headquarters in Gangtok Credit: Pankaj Dhungel

Gangtok: This Republic Day, two members of the Sikkim Fire and Emergency Services will be recognised for the Meritorious Service Award and Distinguished Service Award.

Retired Chief Fire Officer Vishal Kumar Gurung has been conferred with Fire Service Medal for Meritorious Service, while Indra Kumar Rai has been conferred with President’s Fire Service Medal for Distinguished Service.

Rai serves as the Deputy Chief Fire Officer at Sikkim Fire and Emergency Services headquarters in Gangtok. He is the first recipient from the state in the category of Distinguished Services.

Rai was previously conferred with the President’s Fire Service Medal for Meritorious Service in 2012. Ideally, an officer is considered for the higher Distinguished Services award after five years of Meritorious Service Award, Rai earned the same after eight years. “I have been serving for 27 years, beginning as Sub Fire Officer on the first day of 1994,” stated the official born in Sombaria, West Sikkim.

The 48-year-old started his schooling from Sombaria Government School, later finished his schooling from Soreng Senior Secondary School. He completed his graduation in Science from then Sikkim Government College in Tadong, Gangtok. Rai received professional training from National Fire Service College in Nagpur in 1994. In 2018, he completed his Fire Station Officer Course with distinction also from NFS College in Nagpur.

“In 2012, I was Station Officer, and during my service, I had averted major fire calls, rescue service and was good in administrative works as well. The department used to consider me as one of the best officers, hence, they recognised me by nominating me for the award in the Meritorious Service category. This year also, I think I was considered for my exceptional fire service from operation on the field to search and rescue, and also awareness program to the public on fire safety, along with my administrative works”.

On how tough it is to fight fire in modern times, Indra Kumar Rai stated, “Technology and life have advanced, our way of living has changed and so has our infrastructure. Along with it, the inherent fire hazard has also increased. These are no longer times of fire only from woods, it is also buildings with combustible materials, from wires to plastics material being used. There are more incidents of fire. We have been devoted to public safety, and we train hard. But the public also needs to acknowledge the risk that has increased with our comfort. The factors have increased, every household needs to have fire safety requirements and knowledge. In major calls, there has been a complaint of vehicles not reaching on time. The routes are a concern with traffic being the major disruption, public and fire service department must come together”.

On the need for up-gradation of equipment, Rai stated, “Our vehicles and equipment are not up to the mark.

In the upcoming state budget session, we have requested the state government to help us. They have given a positive response, fully aware of how old our vehicles and equipment are. Some of our vehicles are almost 30 years old, they need to be replaced, and we have given a proposal for newer vehicles to be retrieved. So, this year, newer vehicles could come through. The Central government has also approved Rs 1,000 crores for fire services. We have sent the Detailed Project Report with an aim to upgrade our vehicles and equipment. Those in Pakyong Airport are designed for an airport. But the same cannot be used in cities, owing to its size. It cannot fit our roads and lanes. Ours have to fight in lanes. Now, there are other advanced fire vehicles, and we need them”.

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