In its final report on the Mantralaya fire, which killed five people, the Mumbai fire brigade is likely to stick its neck out and point out that the government’s failure to implement the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measure Act, 2006, in its own headquarters, is one of the main reasons for the disaster.
The report will be submitted in five to six days.
Fire brigade officials, who met on Sunday to discuss their 12-hour-long operation and their audit report, told HT that the government had failed to install and maintain fire-fighting equipment such as smoke detection system, analogue addressable fire alarm arrangement, fire extinguishers, sprinklers, hose reel and tank storing adequate water, which were made mandatory by the Act.
“During our operation, we realised that nothing mandated in the Act had been followed. There was not even a hotline between Mantralaya and the fire brigade, which could have alerted us immediately,” an official said, requesting anonymity.
The city’s chief fire officer SV Joshi first heard about the fire when a relative of his working in Mantralaya called him on his mobile phone and not through official channels.
As reported in HT’s June 23 edition, in its preliminary report, the fire brigade had stated that the state secretariat building was not equipped to handle the fire.
Under the Act, the fire brigade is responsible for ensuring that all important buildings follow the guidelines. But it has no jurisdiction over Mantralaya, which is the responsibility of the public works department.
The fire, which broke out on Thursday, became a raging inferno because of the lack of a disaster control plan and huge volumes of wood and paper in the offices. Since then, Mantralaya has been closed and all government operations suspended.
The report will also criticise the excessive use of wooden partitions in the building. “A wall made of bricks and cement prevents fire from spreading. In Mantralaya, these were replaced by wooden panels for cubicles for ministers,” the official said.
MV Deshmukh, director, Maharashtra Fire Services, said: “The Act is applicable for new buildings, not old ones like Mantralaya. The fire safety norms in the building are being followed as per the Development Plan rules prevalent at the time of its construction.” The state made the Act mandatory for all hospitals, including those built before 2008, after the AMRI fire in Kolkata claimed 90 lives. But it ignored fire safety measures within Mantralaya.