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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Statistics show that in five years, incidents of fire in Mumbai have gone up by a 1000. Every day, the fire department gets about 70 emergency calls. What's the problem?



• Storage of LPG, PNG, CNG cylinders:
People keep these cylinders just about anywhere, without taking adequate precaution. In many cases, children have easy access to these cylinders.

• Underground cables:
When various authorities dig up roads for a variety of reasons, they often cut through underground electric cables, which create sparks, leading to fire.

• Storage of unauthorised scrap material in godowns:
eral such godowns are located in Kurla, Mankhurd, Veera Desai Road and the industrial area of Andheri (west). The smallest spark is often enough to set such godowns on fire. Since chemical substances are also stored illegally at various godowns, there are often explosions here, causing injury.

• The chulha:
Slum dewellers often use the chulha for cooking. It's one of the biggest causes of fire in these areas, when accompanied by negligence.

• Traffic:
Fire engines find it dif
ficult to reach their destinations in time mainly due to traffic snarls. This always leads to the intensity of the fire being increased, thus causing more causality and damages, by the time it is finally put out.

• Bad roads and bridges under construction:
Fire engines often have to use longer routes due to roads and bridges being under construction.

• Bad attitude:
Car, autorickshaw and taxi drivers very often don't give right of way to fire engines.

• Small number of fire stations:
The city has only 33-odd fire sta
tions, while it actually requires at least a hundred. Response time can be reduced if the city gets more fire stations.

• Six regional fire command centres need strengthening:
These centres are Byculla, Wadala, Mankhurd, Vikroli, Marol and Borivili. The response time should be not more than four minutes at these centres.

• Pedestrians:
Fire engines are often stopped in their path by pedestrians thronging the roads too.

Density of population

48,418 people/km in the city:
serviced by 15 fire stations

• 24,042 people/km in the western suburbs: serviced by 12 fire stations

22,064 people/km in the eastern suburbs: serviced by 6 fire stations
IN THE HOT SEAT Anil Sawant, chief fire brigade officer, discusses his problems and plans
What do you plan to do in the face of the increasing numbers of incidents of fire in the city?
We are trying our best to control the situation. The fire brigade has decided to increase the number of fire stations and very soon the proposal will be placed before the BMC. We will also conduct awareness campaigns for residents.

Are you giving any training to firemen to cope with fires at highrise buildings and slum areas?
Recently we conducted a training programme for firemen at Kamshet. The training includes activities like river crossing, rock climbing and highrise rope rescue training. Moreover, in some areas in Mumbai, we train citizens in climbing and rescuing themselves too, during crises.

Do you have any system for detecting explosive chemicals when they are brought into the city?
That's very difficult to achieve. Actually, the concerned area authorities should conduct round-the-clock checks to detect explosive chemicals stored illegally. We do conduct surveys and submit the lists to civic ward officials, but they have to take action themselves.

IN FLAMES A few incidents of fire in Mumbai

November 2, 2007
A fire broke out on the mezzanine floor of the twostoreyed Jaipan Studios in Goregaon, destroying its accounts office and godown. A television serial's shoot was in progress on the second floor when the incident occurred. The accident brings to light the lack of fire safety norms in many studios across the city. It destroyed all the furniture, eight computers and documents including share certificates and property papers.
January 29, 2008
An LPG driven Maruti Omni ferrying 13 school students burst into flames and four children were burnt to death. According to the police, a leakage in the LPG tank caused the fire. Later it was found that the driver was carrying petrol in bottles, kept under the seats. The Omni's interiors were charred and there was a gaping hole in the roof.
February 23, 2008
A fire broke out in a building belonging to the Everest Masala Company in Ghatkopar. Eight fire engines and five water tankers managed to douse the flames in about three hours. No casualties were reported.
February 27, 2008
A major fire broke out in Dharavi, at a plastic factory at Ankitnagar.There were no casualties.
January 10, 2008
Two months ago, at Veera Desai Road (Andheri - West), a major fire broke out in the industrial area. While dousing the fire, three firemen burn were seriously injured when some chemical substances exploded abruptly. Later on, it was found that the chemical substances had been stored illegally.


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