While the city's fire brigade has come in for praise and flak in equal measure for its operations at Mantralaya last week, with both the chief minister and the civic chief questioning its efforts, Suhas Joshi, Mumbai fire brigade chief, said it was unfair to target the department. Excerpts from the interview:
An audit by panelists formed by HT has found that many public buildings are woefully ill-equipped to fight fire. What steps will the fire brigade take to address this issue?
It's not our responsibility to ensure that these buildings are better equipped. Under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention & Life Safety Measures Act, it is mandatory for every building to conduct its own safety audit and present us with a compliance certificate. It's after we get this certificate that we are to inspect the building. The government should conduct an audit of these buildings.
About 40% of all fires in 2010-11 took place in south Mumbai, as per your records. Is the area more vulnerable than the suburbs?
South Mumbai has everything from residences to shops, offices and military installations to docks in one locality. It has the most number of old buildings, which make it difficult to prevent and fight fires.
The Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act was meant to be the first step towards ensuring better fire-fighting and fire-prevention capabilities for buildings. Has there been any implementation of the Act?
One of the most prominent features of the Act is that buildings must appoint a contractor and get a compliance report for their building's fire safety measures. But this has not happened.
The Act allows us to disconnect the water and power supply of ill-equipped buildings. But such a provision is difficult to implement because of lack of will. The implementation of the Act has not been smooth.