Ganapati M Naik of Bedkani village in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka was unimpressed when the fire department officials he had contacted to douse a fire at his home arrived at his door an hour after the fire had begun.
The fire, which started at the cattle shed in Ganapati's house at 7.45 pm, was threatening to spread to other areas of the house when Ganapati tried to frantically contact the fire department. "It was over an hour later that the fire officials arrived," recalls TH Naik, son-in-law of Ganapati who was present at the house.
The anger against the fire officials turned to shock and despair when the fire engine drew a blank instead of pouring water over the fire. "They (fire officials) connected the pipe and tried to douse the fire but the water ran out soon and they did not know how to fix the problem," says TH Naik.
Around 200 people in and around Bedkani then arrived to help Ganapati and his family. "People suggested that the firemen draw water from the nearby lake but their pump was not functional either. Eventually, people arranged for water from their houses and doused the fire by pouring buckets of water," recalls Naik.
Officials at the fire department in Siddapura admit that they arrived at 8.50 pm, an hour after the fire began. "There was an issue with the landline connection in the office and we left immediately after we received word from the police, around 8.30 pm. We reached the spot after travelling through bad roads," says Ramachandra Naik, a fire department official from Siddapura.
The officials however claim that the fire engine did not run out of water and claim that they did their best to douse the fire. "The people gathered outside the house gave us trouble for arriving late. They meddled with our hose and other equipment," adds Ramachandra.
It was around midnight that the fire was ultimately doused. The fire had spread to the entire house and also injured Ganapati who was admitted to a nearby hospital.
Ganapatiās family are now claiming compensation from district officials for the losses they have suffered. "We are asking officials for Rs 30 lakh because we have lost everything that was in the house," says Naik.
Meanwhile, a few residents also damaged the fire engine angered by the lack of response by the fire department, officials say.