Mobeds and Fire Hazards
Problems, Suggestions, Solutions & Action
Teams: WZO Trusts & Empowering Mobeds
The recent incident of a young Mobed performing the boye ceremony being severely burnt due to the Jama worn by him having caught fire by flying embers has made it essential to review safety norms in the interest of our Mobeds.
Since time immemorial Zoroastrians have worshipped the fire and generations of Mobeds have tended to the fires in our various Atash Behrams and Agiaries. In recent years there have been a series of unfortunate incidents involving Mobeds being burnt as a result of stray flying embers.
This article is an attempt undertaken by Teams: WZO Trusts & Empowering Mobeds to identify the problems, offer suggestions for solutions and share the initial action taken.
Considering the gravity of the situation, it is very essential that necessary dialogue should be undertaken through which safety norms can be introduced, impart training to Mobeds and Behdins on measures to be undertaken during an emergency situation whereby safety of Mobeds who are prone to grievous injuries for no fault of their own is ensured.
Note about the Jamaa
The Jamaa that Mobeds wear whilst tending to fire in the kebla is a white coloured traditional flowing robe worn over their clothes and is often made of cotton or fine muslin. In older times Jamaas were made of thicker quality hand woven linen.
Fire Hazards facing Mobeds
A number of recent unfortunate incidents have happened where mainly Mobeds clothes have caught fire. In a majority of cases it has started with the Jamaa catching fire whilst the Mobed has been performing boye ceremony in the kebla and in some cases where ceremonies such as jashan’s, monthly remembrance prayers by coming into contact with the Divo (Oil Lamp) or by a stray flying ember.
Mobeds are aware that flying embers are very common and will agree that whilst the Setranji (Cotton rug used for prayers) is singed frequently but there has never been an instance of a setranji bursting into flames. The reason for this is purely the thickness and proximity of the setranji to the ground.
Putting Out A Clothes Fire
When a person’s clothing catches on fire, action must be instinctive and immediate. There is no time to think.
The one thing one should never do is run.
To minimize a burn injury when clothes catch fire, it is very essential to STOP, DROP, and ROLL. Burns are among the most painful of injuries and the third leading cause of unintentional death. The hands, groin, face and lungs are at particular risk because they are delicate structures and easily injured.
The healing process is slow and painful, resulting not only in enormous personal suffering but also enormous financial expenses are incurred that Mobeds are generally unable to bear on their own.
The principles of STOP, COVER / DROP and ROLL are simple, Prompt action will reduce the severity of any burn injury.
It is very important not to panic and run. Running fans the flames and increases the fire.
Heat rises up fast so cover your face with your hands to protect the delicate eyes and skin on the face and to protect airways from the smoke.
Drop to the ground immediately.
Roll backwards and forwards on the flame to smother the fire. By rolling on the flames you starve them of oxygen and put out the fire.
A bystander can assist by dousing the fire with water, or using a fire blanket, non-flammable mat, blanket or article of clothing to assist in smothering the fire. A water fire extinguisher (all red body) is the only type of fire extinguisher which can be safely used in this situation. It is very important not to use any other type of fire extinguisher.
Ways suggested to Avoid / Mitigate the problem
It is very necessary that Trustees and Managements of every Atashbehram & Agiary should:
- Raise Awareness levels by providing regular training and demonstrations to be given to Mobeds and Behdins alike via various mediums.
- Place a setranji or fire blanket in an easily accessible corner of the room where ceremonies are performed.
- Easily operable push button Fire Extinguishers (preferably water based) should be made available near areas identified as having hazards
- Treating Clothing with Flame retardants is not viable as most flame retardants wash off after a few washes at best and often irritate the skin and cause rashes.
- Minor change of design to the Jamaa where behind the kas (cotton tie) snap buttons can be fitted like in daglis so that it can be taken out within seconds, in cases of emergency.
- Vada Dasturjis need to be consulted, and permission needs to be taken if a badan (not collared shirt) and an ijar over the legha can be worn for boye ceremonies in Adarians or a sahyo (worn by Irani mobeds). Atash Behtam boyewallas can continue wearing the full regalia.
- Use good quality seasoned and properly dried sandalwood and kathi whenever possible.
- Consult with Fire Safety experts and formulate a training program.
Quick thinking by onlookers and Mobeds having been trained will certainly save lives in the future.
Initial Action Underway
A donor who wishes to remain anonymous has gifted to WZO Trusts’ 300 hand held cans of a fire retardant, with a request that two cans be given to every Atashbehram & Agiary in India which can be kept on hand wherever a Mobed is performing religious ceremonies.
These cans will shortly be distributed through volunteers team of Empowering Mobeds.
A short video is being conceptualised that will educate Mobeds on the proper way to tend to the fires. It has been the experience of senior Mobeds that young Mobeds many a times extend their arms very close to the fire, singeing the cuff of their jamas that creates such avoidable mishaps.
Suggestions of a practical nature that would further enhance the safety of our Mobeds are welcome and looked forward to. We can be contacted on Face Book Walls of ‘World Zoroastrian Organisation / WZO Trust Funds’, and ‘Empowering Mobeds’, also at firstname.lastname@example.org
Recognising that the safety and wellbeing of our Mobeds tending to the spiritual needs of our community is paramount, WZO Trusts’ & Empowering Mobeds have jointly undertaken this initiative with the hope that with proper training, our Mobeds, accidents that have been occurring will be eliminated.