A small fire that could have been brought under control turned into a massive blaze that destroyed most of the top four floors of the state secretariat on Thursday. The reason — disregard for disaster management module, carelessness on part staff members and faulty office design.
As per the government records, a short circuit was reported in a room on the fourth floor at 2.40pm. However, several employees told HT that the fire had started at least 15 minutes before.
Employees in the department were not trained in using fire extinguishers and failed to use it properly. According to the fire department, they received the first call informing about the blaze at 2:46pm.
However, the fire engines could not reach the spot due to the vehicles parked on the Mantralaya premises. The windows of the cars had to be broken to control their steering wheels and move them away. Also, the hydraulic ladders could not go to the left and right side of the building because of lack of controlled access.
“We were lucky to escape unhurt. I saw no alert mechanism when I was in the building. I think the people concerned wasted too much time before reacting,” said Subhash Dhote, Congress legislator from Rajura.
Visitors to Ajit Pawar’s office said the police did not alert them even as they took the deputy chief minister away. “We waited for help, but it was too late and we were trapped,” said a visitor.
Haphazard office and cabin designs, excessive use of plywood, and non-concealed electric wirings and hundreds of air-conditioners added to intensity of the fire. Continuous blasts of AC compressors frightened the trapped employees and visitors.
However, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan maintained that the response time was good. “Staff of my cabinet colleague Babanrao Pachpute did use the fire extinguishers. The fire brigade arrived promptly and worked well.”
Saying that he would go through the old report, Chavan said another fire and structural audit of the building would be conducted.