Bustling streets in a congested area, narrow lanes, wooden support and cloth stocked inside the building — all these factors turned the fire at Gokul Nivas building on Saturday into a disaster.
Kalbadevi area houses old residential and commercial structures that are located close to each other. “The building was very old and had wooden beams. Sprinkling water to douse the blaze made the structure heavy. Unable to take the load, the building collapsed,” said a fireman, who was at the spot.
The congested area, coupled with the heavy traffic, delayed the fire engines by almost half-an-hour.“By the time the fire brigade officers reached the spot, the blaze had engulfed all floors. We could see a family trapped on the fifth floor, but couldn’t reach out to them,” said an eyewitness.
The injury caused to chief fire officer Sunil Nesrikar, who entered the building, within two hours of reaching the spot, also affected the operation, said eyewitnesses. To make matters worse, one more senior fire officer, too, got injured, leading to a major communication gap.
The fire brigade called for 20 engines to the spot more than three hours after the fire broke out. “Had it been done in the first two hours, the blaze could have easily been contained,” said a local.
Local MLA Raj Purohit, who was at the spot, said, “The chief fire officer should have been supervising and leading the team. There was a major communication problem in the absence of all senior officers who could have given orders. The firemen should have used their presence of mind to understand how stable the building is and acted accordingly.”
The civic body has, over the years, failed to put a fire-fighting system in place to tackle blazes in congested areas and provide better quality uniforms to firemen.