The Bhopal Municipal Corporation received 2,104 fire-related emergency calls between April 2015 and March 2016, a 140% increase from 875 in 2014. Despite the jump, there has been little change in the number of fire stations in the city.
Recent fire incidents have brought attention to the vulnerability of buildings that lack fire safety equipment or have a poor maintenance record. Lack of a comprehensive legislation to force slackers to adopt fire safety regulations is another area of concern highlighted by the fires.
Assistant fire officer Sajid Khan said lack of awareness was another reason for the increase in fire incidents. “In government offices too, people do not switch off fans and lights even when the office is closed. This increases the risk of fire. Private building owners are not maintaining safety equipment at all,” he said.
Making the state capital even more vulnerable is the fact that fire fighting equipment has not kept pace with area expansions. Until 2014, Bhopal was 285 square km in area, which was increased to 463 square km in January last year, and its population jumped from 1.8 to 2.3 million.
In 2014, the civic body had 18 fire engines, seven fire stations, one hydraulic platform, five water tankers, nine ambulances, one crane and one rescue vehicle, and since then the only additions have been two ambulances, three fire stations and a fire jeep.
The National Building Code (Part 4) includes recommendations of minimum standards of fire protection, including a fire station and fire engine for every 50,000 people. Bhopal should ideally have around 46 stations but has just 10.
The Old City is at greater risk given its population density, proximity of buildings and a haphazard network of overhead electric wires. Narrow lanes and crowded streets make it difficult for fire engines to douse flames in the area.
In fact, many areas in the city, including Anand Nagar, Bhadbhada road, Awadhpuri, Baghmugalia and Bawdiya Kala, are in dire need of a fire station.
Number of fire cases