They are fearless, on alert 24×7 and know how to play with fire. Meet 40-year-old Sita Khacik, one of the 155 courageous firefighter women of the Agnishaman Kendra Vishwakarma, a fire station in Jaipur that is run only by women.
With a background of Civil Defence, Sita was encouraged by her husband to get training in this safety and rescue department. “I was getting trained as a sub-inspector in Nagpur when my businessman husband advised me to specialise in emergency services. I had to study a lot to clear the exam. But I managed and got posted in Jaipur in 2014,” Sita says.
But it was not easy for her to make a career in a male dominated profession which required a lot of strength and courage to save lives.
“A women firefighter is unheard of in India. But I wanted to break the stereotype. I overcame my fear of getting injuries, worked on my body to build the muscle needed to handling heavy machines and be more alert in taking decisions during rescue missions. It was a rigourous process in Nagpur,” Sita tells you.
Sita is not the only woman who has taken this road less travelled. There were many others who were encouraged to be a part of this profession. These women will get featured in tonight’s episode of MTV’s show Angels of Rock at 8 pm. The four hosts of the show — Shalmali Kholgade, Anusha Mani, Jasmine Sandlas and Akasa Singh — will get a taste of what it takes to fight a real fire.
Talking about her rescue missions, Sita says: “The first operation took place in 2014 where the entire sabzi mandi caught fire. We got a call at 3 pm and we rushed to the spot. The fire had spread very fast and we had to call all the cars from the other 10 fire stations as well to bring it under control. The entire night was spent on extinguishing the fire. Another incident took place at a textile factory where two children and a woman were stuck. With the help of breathing operator and safety helmet, we went inside and rescued them.”
Initially, people used to be surprised when they would see a woman fight a fire.
“Some people encouraged us, others would pass comments like ‘arrey dekh dekh ladkiyaan aag bhuja rahi hain. Inko kisne rakh diya naukri pe?’ It hurt but we would remain focused on the task at hand extinguish fire,” Sita recalls.
But snide remarks are the least of the worries for these women. Sometimes, when the fire breaks out, people are unable to communicate properly. This causes problems and the firefighters have to first find out the source.
Recalling an incident last year, Sita tells you that a fire had broken out in one of the paan shops but the people didn’t know what was the cause and where it had originated.
“We wore our protective gear and entered the room and found that it was due to a gas leak from the cylinder which was kept hidden under a bed. Due to smoke, we were unable to see. This was a risky job since a delay of even a few minutes would have resulted in the cylinder bursting and lives being lost,” Sita says.
(The article also got published in Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/show-time/an-act-of-valour.html).