2 years after Kamala Mills blaze, 58.16% hotels still flouting rules
Two years since the deadly fire at two posh restaurants in Kamala Mills compound claimed 14 lives, the Mumbai fire brigade has found that half the restaurants, hotels, bars, malls, and gymkhanas it examined are still not complying with fire safety rules.
Between January and December 2019, the fire brigade inspected 10,800 establishments, and took action against 6,282, or 58.16% of them for fire safety non-compliance. In contrast, high-rise and low-rise buildings fared better. The fire brigade found 8.36% or 208 buildings of the inspected 2,486 buildings were not complying with fire safety standards.
The fire at Kamala Mills changed the way Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) viewed fire safety and compliance.
The Mumbai fire brigade began to strictly ensure fire compliance, apart from its primary task of disaster response. It formed 34 special fire compliance cells for Mumbai headed by a station officer, to conduct inspections. These establishments and buildings were inspected by the special cell.
Following these inspections, the fire brigade can send notices to establishments that do not follow rules.
If buildings still fail to
comply, the fire brigade can prosecute them under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention Act, after a stipulated time for compliance.
There are 59 buildings and establishments in Mumbai that have not complied with fire safety rules, even after the fire brigade inspected and served them notices.
Chief fire officer P Rahangdale said, “The owners or occupiers of these buildings have been prosecuted under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, and cases are ongoing in the high court.”
The criteria that decide if a building is not complying with fire safety rules include blocked exits, unauthorised LPG cylinders, non-functional fire lifts, buildings’ meter boxes covered with combustible material, no fire alarms, or other equipment such as sprinklers, hose pipes and riser systems.
These criteria for commercial establishments are listed out in CFO-codified fire safety requirements published by BMC after the fire at Kamala Mills. It is a list of fire safety requirements for each type of establishment based on its seating capacity, number of staff, number of LPG cylinders used in its kitchen, type of electric equipment used (air conditioning and lighting), and if the establishments serve liquor or not, among other things.
Shivanand Shetty, president of Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association, said, “Fire safety is paramount to us. At every meeting of the association, we tell restaurants to comply with the rules. If any untoward incident happens, the restaurant has a lot to lose, so we take adequate precautions.”