Fire department officials said that use of automated doors and lack of access to the roof resulted in the death of six persons as they got trapped on the third floor. The third floor was the office of the company, the basement was used as storage and the other floors, for manufacturing.
The five-storey building (including the basement) of Excel Greentech was engulfed in flames on Wednesday afternoon. The fire spread quickly due to inflammable material such as LED lights and paper cartons.
The police and the fire department are yet to find the cause of the fire, which started on the first floor.
Fire department officials said that they could not rescue the six persons who died as they got trapped between automated doors, which are controlled by a computer security software and require electricity for functioning.
“There were two exits on the third floor but both were automated doors, run by electricity. While the back door was made of heavy wood, the front door was made of glass. Both were locked due to electricity failure following the fire, trapping those present,” Aman Sharma, deputy director, fire department, Meerut division, said.
Fire department officials further said that lack of safety precautions resulted in the fire escalating to an unmanageable extent. The terrace was also locked, thus cutting off another avenue of exit, officials said.
“Many companies tend to have automated doors that are managed with a computer software and electricity. However, one exit that can be manually operated must also be included. In this incident, the victims were trapped on the third floor due to software failure, which resulted in the locking of automated doors. The commodities kept on the terrace of the building are still unaffected and this proves that they could have been saved if they had reached the terrace,” said Sharma.
Sharma said that the fire department was ready to perform a rescue operation from the terrace using ropes and ladders. Recently, in January, the fire department had rescued 50-60 workers who had fled to the terrace of a factory in Sector 4, following a fire. The fire department officials had used ladders and ropes to create a bridge between the affected building and an adjacent building to rescue those who were trapped on the terrace.
“In the previous case, the terrace of the building was accessible and we were able to rescue all of them. We wanted to conduct a similar operation in this incident but it was not possible due to lack of access to the terrace,” Sharma said.
The fire department said it will conduct sensitization programs in the district. The department had observed Fire Service Day recently, on April 14.
“Fire accidents are more likely to take place in summer and we have decided to continue our awareness programme in the city by conducting door-to-door campaigns. We will be issuing an advisory to all factories, institutions and offices in the city to follow safety precautions. Both residential and industrial areas are vulnerable to fires, but the crucial element in all cases is the human presence. Residents are always the first to respond to fires and they must be aware of the do’s and don’ts,” Sharma said.
This is the third major fire accident in the city this year, with the highest casualty over the last two years. Last year, a total of 1,359 fire accidents were reported, and a loss of Rs357 crore.