There are only 9 fire officials to ensure the safety of around 6,100 high-rise buildings in the city. As a result, most of these buildings remain unchecked for fire safety norms as there is only one officer to conduct checks on more than 600 buildings.
According to fire brigade norms, a building higher than 24 m, or seven storeys, is classified as a high-rise.
In 1999, the Fire Brigade gave a no-objection certificate (NOC) for the construction of 6,100 buildings, of which about 2,400 are in the island city and 3,700 are located in the suburbs.
However, due to shortage of staff, the buildings are not inspected regularly to evaluate if they follow fire safety norms.
“Ideally, every high-rise building should get inspected once a year and if fire officials find that safety rules are being ignored or violated by the building, the officer is supposed to give a notice to the society. They should also ensure that these lapses are rectified in the stipulated period,” said a fire official on condition of anonymity.
In 2009 only 367 buildings were inspected by the fire department while in the last three months only 53 buildings have been examined.
The three zones in the city — island city, western suburbs and eastern suburbs — have one Divisional Fire Officer and 2 Assistant Divisional Fire Officers designated to inspect high-rises. These officers are supposed to submit their report to the Chief Fire Officer.
Uday Tatkare, Chief Fire Officer, said that the numbers of fire officers are enough for inspection of the high-rises. “The civic body will now appoint a private licence holder agency, which will inspect all buildings including commercial establishments with engineering staff and qualified people,” added Tatkare.
As per the state government directives, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), a parent body of Mumbai Fire Brigade, has enforced a new act — the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006 from March 1.
As per the rules, developers of high-rises are expected to follow special fire safety provisions. If a developer submits a construction proposal to seek an NoC from the fire brigade, the rule states that it should either be passed, or rejected within eight days.
The rules also state that inspections should be carried out on high-rises every six months by competent agencies shortlisted by the BMC.