Kosovo’s Firefighters Battle Adversity and Urgent Equipment Shortages

Kosovo’s firefighters confront challenges ranging from battling fires in diverse landscapes to inadequate facilities and outdated equipment.

An old stove is constantly lit at the Viti/Vitina firefighters’ station and officers are using it for an extra purpose, besides fighting cold for themselves in winter.

“It serves us to prevent firefighters’ trucks from freezing,” Zaim Salihu, a firefighter at the station, tells Kallxo Përnime, explaining that the main vehicle, which initiates the intervention, must be ready for use all day around.

“With improvisation we manage to keep vehicles in functional condition,”Salihu explained. “Citizens ask for help, they do not care about our conditions”.

Viti/Vitina firefighters’ station is not the only one in Kosovo which faces severe working conditions amid lack of investments in a sensitive sector for public safety.

Hindered by a lack of resources, these first responders call for urgent investment to enhance their capabilities and ensure the safety of both their teams and the communities they serve.

Apart from dealing with fires, firefighters from 34 stations throughout Kosovo are called for interventions in traffic accidents, facade collapses, and blockages in tall buildings, often with no adequate infrastructure which make their interventions more difficult.

During 2023, the Firefighters’ Union of Kosovo organized protests to demand more dignified treatment for this category. 

Speaking on dire working conditions, chief unionist, Muharrem Beka, told Kallxo Pernime that relevant institutions “do not care about the well-being and the work of firefighters”. He explained that Kosovo lacks 500 firefighters.

Firefighter’s Facility in Suhareka/Suva Reka Municipality, Photo/BIRN

Alaming conditions

In their quest for a dignified treatment, Kosovo firefighters organised a protest in front of the government building on November 30, 2023, and warned for more street actions if their demands were neglected.

Inadequate facilities and a lack of proper equipment for firefighters prevail also in other stations in municipalities of Suharekë/Suva Reka, Malishevë/Malisevo, and Klinë/Klina. Kallxo Pernime’s visit revealed the alarming conditions where issues ranged from insufficient work equipment to the absence of suitable spaces for maintaining machinery.

The Director of Public Services in Viti/Vitina, Basri Aliu, says procedures for the relocation to a new facility are nearing completion, seven years after they started by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. 

According to Aliu, the works lasted until 2023 and the ministry had terminated the contract because the operator that won the ministry’s tender “did not complete all the work”.

The station in Klinë/Klina, which served as a health center until a decade ago, also lacks basic conditions. 

Izet Haxhaj,  leader of the second shift at Klinë/Klina’s fire brigade , told Kallxo Përnime that part of the facility has no electricity.

“When it rains, water can penetrate inside. The place is very old and repairs have to be made all the time,” he said. 

In Suhareka/Suva Reka only one out of nine vehicles is ready for emergencies because of a lack of suitable spaces for maintenance. In the absence of suitable space, the firefighters store their work equipment and clothing in containers.

The commander of the firefighting unit, Vehbi Krasniqi, said that the facility, which dates back to the 1970s, “does not meet even the minimum conditions for firefighting service in every aspect”. 

The deputy commander of the firefighters in Malisheve/Malisevo, Muhamet Xhyliqi, explained that ”the facility needs to be larger because we place the trucks in the space where we stay”.

“During winter, we have to ignite them, and all the smoke remains inside,” he complained.

Firefighte’sr Facility in Suhareka/Suva Reka Municipality, Photo/BIRN

Firefighters unable to extinguish fires on higher floors

Firefighters across Kosovo told Kallxo Përnime they are mainly equipped to fight fires up to the third floor, risking their lives if the fire is on upper floors by using internal or emergency stairs. 

Haxhaj from Klinë/Klina explained that the highest the only vehicle that meets the standards can go is the third floor, with the assistance of mechanical stairs. 

“If the fire is on higher floors, we do not have hydraulic stairs, and we have to risk our lives by intervening through normal stairs as best we can,” he explains.

Nexhat Behrami, the director of the Fire Department in the Emergency Management Agency , that operates within the Internal Affairs Ministry, told Kallxo Pernime that the hydraulic stairs are difficult to maintain because they “are old and have different standards as a result of donations”. 


21 February 2024 - 16:09

read more: