A major fire gutted the Goyal shopping centre outside Borivli station early on Friday.
A fire officer was killed and two more injured in the attempt to douse the fire, which continued to rage until late evening. Two other persons were also injured. The deceased officer has been identified as Pradeep Jhagde (45), an Assistant Fire Officer with the Byculla fire brigade unit. The injured fire officers are Vasant Dhundekar (38) and Manoj Mahad (35).
According to fire brigade officials, three fire officers entered the basement around 11 am. “They were carrying breathing masks and were 15 to 20 feet inside the basement, when they had to turn back as the thick smoke made it impossible to breathe. While two officers returned, Pradeep lost his way due to extremely poor visibility,” said Uday Tatkare, Chief Fire Officer. A search team found Jhagde dead in the basement after half an hour.
Eyewitnesses said that the fire started around 4:45 am at the 30-year-old shopping centre, which houses 210 shops, godowns, restaurants and small business units. “All my life’s savings are lost,” said Hasmukh Shah, a shop owner.
Initial investigations by the fire brigade reveal that the fire broke out from a shoe shop located in the basement.
“We will take action after the fire department submits its report,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (north region), R.E. Pawar.
Shop owners at the centre blamed rats for the fire. “The complex is infested with rats. It is possible that the rats chewed the electric wires, leading to a short circuit,” Pravin Jain, secretary of the shopping complex said. Fire brigade officials said lack of ventilation inside the basement caused the fire. “The building lacked basic safety precautions,” Tatkare said.