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Mumbai high-rise fire: Challenges in firefighting

ByEeshanpriya MS, Mumbai
Oct 23, 2021 01:29 AM IST

The fire at Mumbai’s Avighna Park that claimed one life has once again turned the spotlight on fire safety in high-rises buildings.

The fire at Mumbai’s Avighna Park that claimed one life has once again turned the spotlight on fire safety in high-rises buildings.

The fire at Mumbai’s Avighna Park that claimed one life has once again turned the spotlight on fire safety in high-rises buildings. (Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)
The fire at Mumbai’s Avighna Park that claimed one life has once again turned the spotlight on fire safety in high-rises buildings. (Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)

In cases where a tall building’s internal firefighting system is not working, the Mumbai fire brigade has to rely on its own firefighting equipment. Experts say the major challenge in this is physically carrying the equipment to the top floors of the building. If the fire breaks out on higher floors which are not within the reach of the fire brigade’s turntable ladders, external support (from outside the building) to control a raging fire is non-existent, and rescue operations become tougher, according to them.

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The tallest turntable ladder available with the Mumbai Fire brigade is 90m long, which can access up to 30-32 floors of a high-rise. However, the city is rapidly seeing a spurt in 60-70 storey buildings. “In such cases, the building’s own robust internal firefighting system is the only way to effective fight fires, or prevent them,” said Hemant Dattatray Parab, chief fire officer of the Mumbai fire brigade.

Another senior officer of the Mumbai fire brigade said, “The tallest firefighting ladder in the world is 112m long. This vehicle weighs 72 tonnes. Mumbai’s roads are not made to handle this weight. Even if they were, this is not tall enough for the tallest building in Mumbai. What can you do?”

The 90-m ladder owned by the Mumbai fire brigade weighs 52 tonnes. Mumbai’s roads and flyovers are designed to handle a load of around 60 tonnes, as there are utility chambers under all of them, the officer quoted above said. Some roads in the island city have century-old arch drains under them.

An officer of the Mumbai fire brigade told HT a few months ago: “When my 90m ladder is out on the field, parked under a building and in use for a rescue operation, I am constantly mindful that I do not know the condition of the road below. I have no time to assess this condition in the little time I have as a first-responder during a fire. What if it caves while my firemen or citizens rescued from a fire are still mounted on the ladder?”

Velocity of wind is another challenge. “Even if the fire is at an accessible height from a turntable ladder, the wind displaces the water from a high-pressure hose-pipe,” another fire brigade officer said.

Smoke detectors and sprinklers are the real first responders in case of high-rise fires, according to a fire official. Sprinklers, too, play a crucial role containing a local fire.

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