Between inspections, Hotel Arpit Palace made major modifications
The fire inspection procedure mandates an inspection by the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) once every three years while renewing the safety certificate of guest houses in the city.Updated: Feb 14, 2019 14:28 IST
A day after an early morning blaze killed 17 of its occupants, Hotel Arpit Palace stood charred at central Delhi’s Karol Bagh. The police had barricaded the area around the entrance and firefighters were still conducting cooling operations. Inside, however, several illegal modifications seem to have fanned Tuesday’s fire.
The fire inspection procedure, which mandates an inspection by the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) once every three years while renewing the safety certificate, also gave enough time to the hotel owners to carry out modifications that went unnoticed till accident happened.
At Hotel Arpit Palace, the last inspection was conducted in December 2017, where the property was granted fire clearance as a guest house with a basement, ground floor—a part of which was a restaurant and a section as reception, first and second floor having 12 guest rooms, and the third and the fourth floor with 11 rooms. The due date for the next inspection was in 2020.
“Annual reviews are not mandated by law, unless there is a complaint or a case of fire. You might call this a loophole in the system and maybe the law needs to be updated, but to inspect every hotel every year requires a large manpower and we do not have it,” said Atul Garg, chief fire officer (DFS).
Garg said that at present 1,542 guest houses in the national capital have safety clearances from the department. The final license, however, is given by the police and the municipal agencies.
“The responsibility of the maintenance of a property lies with the management of these guest houses as well,” he said.
North Delhi mayor Adesh Gupta, however, said that once a go-ahead is received from the fire department, the municipal agency and the police do not take much time in issuing the licence.
Senior fire officials, who were part of the rescue operations, said that there were major modifications to the guest house from the original design presented in 2017. They said that the fire was fanned by high use of inflammable material such as asbestos inside the premise. Officials said that the burning of asbestos led to the release of lot of smoke, which causes asphyxiation.
The guest house also had extensive woodwork, all of which was used compressed sawdust, which catches fire in a jiffy and also spreads it faster that timber.
“Major parts of the hotel, especially the ground floor, used as a restaurant and bar were decorated by false ceiling. This might give the room a beautiful look but in case of fire it traps the smoke inside the room and aggravates the blaze,” a fire official said.
The fire exits were also locked up at the time of the fire, which trapped the occupants, forcing guests to jump off the building.
“The drop off space of the fire exit was also narrow, which would not have accommodated so many people. Encroachment and extensions are a major reason behind it,” the official said.
First Published: Feb 14, 2019 14:28 IST