In need of 99 officers, the special cell of the fire department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) formed two years ago to check the fire preparedness of Mumbai buildings is facing a major staff crunch.
The city receives 12 fire calls in a day. According to officers, the BMC will take at least a year to fill the vacancies. The 70 officers who have been appointed, too, have been given the additional charge of inspecting buildings and other administrative work. Ideally, the officers should inspect at least one building a week, but they are unable to do so owing to staff crunch and other administrative duties.
A case in point could be the fire at the Lotus Business Park in Andheri in July, which claimed the life of a fireman.
According to the fire officials, the high-rise had blocked staircases, no refugee areas and defunct fire extinguishers. It had also failed to submit the mandatory six-monthly audit report. But the major lapses were pointed out only after the incident.
Apart from the revocation of the occupation certificate and action against then chief fire officer, nothing much has changed on ground. Similar lapses — no audit and defunct fire extinguishers — were observed in the fire at the Western Railway quarters in December, which left 14 people injured.
PS Rahangdale, deputy chief fire officer, said, “Along with the fire department, it is the responsibility of the citizens to prevent such incidents. Owners of the building need to conduct a six-monthly audit, which they hardly do.”
According to section 3 (3) of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, a six-monthly compliance certificate is to be submitted in January and June every year to the fire brigade by the owner or the occupants of every building. The special wing is also supposed to monitor buildings that failed to submit the audit reports.