In a bid to bolster fire safety in the city, the state government enacted the stringent Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2009, which mandates that property holders must conduct half-yearly fire audits and submit certificates to the fire brigade.
In reality, however, not a single property owner has submitted such a certificate since the act came into force in 2010.
The Act empowers the fire brigade to take action against building residents who doesn’t follow fire-safety measures by even disconnecting water and power supply.
But while citizens feign ignorance about the Act, the fire brigade maintains they will not inspect buildings unless residents carry out audits and submit certificates. In this tussle, fire safety measures are getting increasingly compromised.
Suhas Joshi, chief fire officer of the Mumbai Fire Brigade said, “The Fire Act puts the onus of being fire safe on residents. The fire brigade doesn’t have the staff and the resources to inspect every structure in the city.”
However, there is little or no awareness about these provisions of the Act. Joshi admitted to this, and said, “Most people don’t know about the Act, and hence, they must make efforts to learn about it and start audits accordingly.” He, however, said that the fire brigade will not be educating the public about the Act. “We are overburdened. People must voluntarily seek information about it,” he added.
Citizens, however, are critical of this approach. Bandra resident Hasim Shaikh said, “The fire brigade cannot have such a lax approach to safety. It is shirking responsibility by hiding behind this clause.”
A fire-fighter said on condition of anonymity, “We realise that it’s not fair to blame citizens completely, but we have no choice. We are overworked and understaffed, and hence, are finding it difficult to ensure fire-safety measures are followed.