A firecracker manufacturing factory in Bawana district, New Delhi, caught fire on Jan. 20, 2018, trapping factory labourers within the premises.Itclaimedthe lives of about 17 people, and brought to the forefront the state of fire safety in the country. A few months later, in the same year on Aug. 9, 2018, a boiler blast severely injured over 43 people in at Bharat Petroleum Refinery in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

India is fourth on the list of biggest risks for industries and businesses as a result of its poor fire safety practices.1 We need professionals setting both fire safety practices and working in this field.

Firefighting for a living

Women comprise less than 20% of firefighters, even in countries where they are best represented. Furthermore, few know that India has a college (National Fire ServiceCollege) dedicated to offering courses around fire safety and building safety standards.

When asked what it takes to be a firefighter in the country, HarshiniKanhekar, chief manager for Fire Services at the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited and India’s first woman to graduate from National Fire ServiceCollege (Nagpur, India), recounted her early internship days, “During industrial visits as part of our practical experience, we actually fought with real fires. Being deployed across various types of vehicles and industries from fire tender to water browser, to foam tender and rescue responder, we attended 40 fire emergency calls over a period of three months, fought mock drills, and worked both day and night shifts. A career in firefighting, I would say, is almost 70% practical and 30% theoretical.”

According to the research done under the supervision of the International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency at Women in Fire, getting ready to become a firefighter should begin years before you even submit your job application.3Preparing yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and maintaining best practices,along with keeping up with evolving safety standards will be key factors that determinea thriving career in this field.

Kanhekar agrees and goes a step further to saythat “we need to choose our career wisely and have the courage to pursue our hobbies that we are inclined towards. If I could be a firefighter by just following my passion and working hard, I think anyone who pushes themselves to pursue their dreams can and do so without any gender bias.”

Dive into the world of a firefighter by checking our podcast featuring Harshini Kanhekar on Word to the W.I.S.E.

Leave us a note in the Contact Us section of SaferIndiaToday.org if you’d like to learn more about opportunities and the skills required to thrive in a firefighting career or be mentored by Kanhekar, and we will get back to you.


  1. "7 Worst Fire Accidents in India in 2018." Prolite.in. Accessed October 30, 2021. https://www.prolite.in/blog/7-worst-fire-accidents-in-india-in-2018.
  2. "About Women in Fire." Women in Fire. Last modified September 22, 2021. https://www.womeninfire.org/about-us/.
  3. "Patterns of Female Firefighter Injuries on the Fireground." NFPA. Accessed October 30, 2021. https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Data-research-and-tools/Emergency-Responders/Patterns-of-Female-Firefighter-Injuries-on-the-Fireground.