When fire lit up at Beirut’s port on August 4th, the Fire Department immediately deployed a team of 10 members to the site. All hell broke loose upon their arrival when Hangar 12 exploded, taking the lives of the entire team and over 190 people.
Ever since, these heroes of the Fire Department, who are mostly volunteers, have been relentlessly on the front line, risking their lives to locate victims in the rubbles, saving people, and challenging repeated fires.
Little is known though that they are being neglected by the government that treats them poorly, and with no consideration to them and to their crucial role.
They have been complaining for over 3 years now, lacking the basics, not even proper gear to face the danger of fire, and to save lives.
Now, with the superhuman work that has been on their shoulders during this catastrophe, considering that they are barely 600 members serving a city of over a million residents, these volunteers can’t handle anymore the disregard for their plight.
They took to the municipality of Beirut to protest and have the nation hear their voices after their meeting with governor Marwan Aboud didn’t yield any result.
While these firefighters are willingly serving their country, they are tired of empty promises that have left them with no tangible changes in the system for the past 3 to 4 years.
“We lack new uniforms, equipment, trucks, and many more mechanisms that will help us cover the damages in Beirut,” the spokesperson for the department told local news media.
He explained how every one of them is working three times more than they should because of their low number, something the governor has failed to work on for years, the way the system has neglected to set a budget for salaries, uniforms, protective gear, and equipment.
According to the norms (in normal countries), as explained by the spokesman, the fire department must have one firefighter for every 1,000 residents.
For the 1.5 million residents of Beirut, the department has only 600 firefighters to ensure saving them during fires and disasters, which keep reiterating. That number, however, has decreased with the recent loss of team members who fell in the line of duty.
“Our job is to become martyrs,” a protesting firefighter said angrily, yet it shouldn’t be that way.
Firefighting is known as the highest risky job in the world. For that, and for all the outstanding service the Lebanese firefighters have been dedicating to the country, the least the government owed them is securing them with protection and stability for them to be able to protect others.
That hasn’t been the case. The government neglect has become a label which high price the people continue to pay on various fronts.
The firefighters, along with family members, are protesting for their basic rights, among which support and compensation for the families of their martyrs who died in the line of duty.