The Mumbai chief fire officer has issued showcause notices to 22 firemen for not wearing protective gear while fighting the fire at the Powai high-rise on Saturday.
The move follows allegations from residents, who said the firemen had wasted time deciding how to handle the fire without wearing the gear. The firemen have one week to reply to the notice.
The panel that investigated the Kalbadevi fire in May suggested mandatory use of private protective equipment (PPE) by firemen. The PPE is a two-piece body suit that includes fire-and heat-resistant synthetic material, helmets with visors and lights, gloves and gumboots, in-built radios and breathing apparatus.
The firemen have for many years now said the gear is uncomfortable and suffocating.
“We have learnt many firemen did not wear the mandatory gear while fighting the Powai blaze. It is a violation of the law and would only lead to severe injuries to our staff. Accordingly, action had to be initiated against them,” said PS Rahangdale, the chief fire officer (in charge).
But fire officials have rubbished the residents’ allegations. “It takes a few minutes to strategise on how to enter the building. Our team did a good job and rescued five people from a burning flat. It wouldn’t have been possible without planning,” said HR Shetty, the assistant divisional fire officer.
Another fireman said: “It [the uniform] is too heavy and feels extremely hot. These imported uniforms are made for foreign conditions and does not suit our climate.” But officials disagreed. “They will get comfortable only by using it regularly. The rule is for their safety, hence we took the decision of issuing a showcause notice. Even I use the same gear while fighting fire, it is comfortable,” said Rahangdale.