Bldg did have fire equipment, no one knew how to use it

Mumbai :  The first day of the week was marked by two fires, one being major, breaking out in two different areas of Mumbai. The one which broke out in Mumbai Central saw two people burnt upto 30 per cent and 12 others hospitalised for respiratory problems.

It has exposed lack of functional fire-fighting equipment in residential buildings as well as the need for awareness about their use. The second fire was in an under-construction building in Goregaon.

At around 11 am on Monday, residents of Skyscraper Apartments in Mumbai Central, which houses Railway employees had smoke bellowing out of its upper floors. While the flames were confined to the sewerage duct, the smoke engulfed most of the floors in the 22-storeyed building and caused panic. The fire brigade arrived at 11.42 am with eight fire engines, eight water tankers, two special appliances and five-six ambulances. Fifty to sixty people were evacuated with the help of cranes and the fire was doused by 2.17 pm. While the cause of the fire is still not known, it is said that a spark fallen in some trash in the sewerage duct led to the fire. While none of the houses here suffered any loss, the ducts here have suffered much damage. Fourteen people were admitted in various hospitals in the area, of which two have sustained less than 30 percent burns, but there was no casualty until Monday night.

“Despite being a Railways’ building, the fire-fighting equipment such as risers, sprinklers, fire alarms etc were dysfunctional. Also, since the staircase was not enclosed and electric ducts were not sealed, it took a long time to bring it under control,” said Prabhat Rahangdale, deputy chief fire officer.

Bldg did have fire equipment, no one knew how to use it

These allegations were corroborated by residents who alleged that none of the fire-fighting equipment was well-maintained. “I have been living in this building for 20 years but I have never seen the equipment functioning. We were never even given any training to use it either. Thankfully the fire brigade came soon today because the fire-fighting equipment was useless,” said Nalini Kale, a resident of the 7th floor.

Alka Shelly, a resident of the 8th floor had a different angle to the story. “The equipment exists but none of us know how to use it.” Alka Srivastava, a resident of the 20th floor also agreed that the residents were never trained on using the equipment.

However, when FPJ asked the building secretary Deepak Saha, he first shrugged off the issue saying he is not sure if the equipment is functional and that its maintenance is the Railways’ maintenance department’s job. He then hailed the fire brigade for doing a brave job. But when asked if there would have been loss to life had the fire brigade come late, he said that they (the people) had brought the fire under control anyways.

When quizzed about the equipment, Western Railway public relations officer CNK David said, “We are investigating the matter, and if any shortcoming is found it will be overcome with the help of the fire department.”

Meanwhile, the fire in an under-construction project behind Hub mall in Goregaon east on Monday was confined to the fifth floor, which is planned to be the podium of the construction. Four fire engines, four fire tankers and a breathing apparatus set were sent to the spot. However, no causalities and damage were reported at the scene.

“By the time we reached the spot, the workers had already evacuated the building. We put off the fire immediately. The cause of the fire is yet to be determined and we are investigating on the same. We will be certain about the cause of the fire in two to three days. We cannot say anything about the situation yet,” said V N Panigrahi, Divisional Fire Officer.

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