While the Kurla fire tragedy has exposed the dire need for better fire safety across Mumbai, the BMC is planning to scrap a project under which fire department officials would audit every structure in the city. Senior officials confirmed that the civic administration will soon scrap the plan for a ‘Fire Act Cell’, first mooted in 2013. This cell would have comprised 99 fire officials tasked with conducting fire audits and preparing a geographic information system (GIS) map of all structures in Mumbai. GIS is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyse, manage and present all types of spatial or geographical data.
The cell was first proposed in 2013 after the fire brigade said it would difficult for its over-burdened staff to audit the more than 3.8 lakh buildings in the city. It has since returned to the fore after every fire tragedy, but the current administration is looking at other ways to monitor and improve the city’s fire safety. A senior civic official, who did not wish to be named, said, “Now, the administration is of the opinion that creating the cell would lead to extortion. There may also be infighting in the fire department to get recruited to the cell as the job would be comparatively easier. We are looking at other options and will finalise a plan soon.” Last Friday, a huge fire killed eight people dining on the first floor of Hotel City Kinara in Kurla. During an inspection the fire brigade found that the hotel flouted several safety norms – it did not have any firefighting equipment, for one. In 2012, the BMC has also initiated a case against the hotel for not possessing the mandatory no-objection certificate from the fire brigade.
Though the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Measures Act, 2006 makes it mandatory for every building to submit a ‘fitness certificate’ based on fire audits twice a year – in January and July – City Kinara did not comply with this either. This year, the BMC put the audit system online, allowing citizens to upload fitness certificates without having to visit a municipal office. Officials say that the site has not got a single hit to date. “Despite issuing several advertisements in newspapers and making the system extremely simple, we have not received compliance reports online,” an official said.