The fire at the Garib Nagar slum in Bandra (East), which gutted 1,000 shanties, was aggravated after locals kept interfering with the firefighting work of the fire brigade, fire department officials have said.
While the fire department said residents kept cutting the water pipes in a bid to douse the fire themselves, locals claimed fire officials did not take the blaze seriously until it had spread considerably. Residents are now saying if it was not for the laidback attitude of the fire department, the damage would have been far less.
Residents said the fire started at one of the houses and the fire control room was informed immediately. “One fire engine was sent to the spot, but the officer refused to start operating as he claimed he was yet to receive orders from his superiors. He just watched while the flames engulfed our shanties. It did not take long for the fire to spread and within minutes there were cylinder blasts after which the fire was uncontrollable,” said Hashmat Ali, general secretary, Bandra Muslim Association.
Residents claimed they managed to save the mosque from the fire. “The boys from the area gathered around the mosque and splashed water on it,” said Bilal, a resident of the area.
Fire chief Uday Tatkare said, “Such allegations are expected after such a big fire. But, the first fire officer who went there saw the flames rising to a great height and alerted us to send in more fire engines. Within the first hour there were five fire engines and three water tankers. But, things got worse when around seven LPG cylinders exploded.”
“If locals had not intervened, the fire could have been brought under control in less than five hours,” Tatkare said.