Being a fireman in Nepal is a tough job: pollution kills more than smoking and - if estimates are to be believed - a citizen in Nepal is more likely to be killed by an earthquake than any other civilian in the world. Nonetheless, firemen are not seen as heroes like in most of the places in the world. A few hundreds of calls yearly reach the firemen central station in Kathmandu. People are used to tackle problems by themselves. Due to traffic jam, narrow streets and their old equipment, Nepali firemen may take a lot of time to intervene. Water is a vital resource in Nepal. The most critical emergencies are those taking place far from the Monson season. Firemen tanks are often empty and firemen are likely to face people’s protests if they have to use rooftop tanks.
The first enemy of Nepali firemen is space: streets are narrow, often without pavement, buildings are close to each other and they are very high. On the 25th April 2015, the day of the tremendous earthquake that hit Nepal, the most relevant problem was that there was not enough space for refugee camps. Nepal is one of the countries with the highest risk of earthquake in the world. Despite the victims of the 2015 earthquake are still vivid memories, reconstruction is not properly regulated and controlled. Nepali firemen’s major activity is about reaching the centres of an emergency and to rescue people from ruins. The Kathmandu Central Station itself still shows the clear evidence of the 2015 earthquake.
In Nepal there is no specific professional path for becoming firemen. You first start as a policeman, and then you can decide to attend few weeks of firemen training. That is it. Women will be trained shortly, but the job for them will be relegated to security service at the airport. The unemployment rate of youth people aged 15-29 is 19.2 per cent compared to 11.7 per cent for the whole population. Over 400,000 young people are estimated to enter the labour force every year. Most of the young firemen are from the countryside or from other regions outside Kathmandu. They work continuously for 5/6 days and then they have 2 days off. They can go back home (if travel is cheap and close) or stay at the firemen station.
Nepali firemen, thanks to the support from firemen and the whole community of Bolzano (a city in the North-East of Italy), and despite of old custom rules, now dispose of new tanker tracks, vehicles (dismissed in Italy) and uniforms. Italian firemen also trained Nepali ones about how to use the new equipment and how to intervene in case of an emergency.