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Aarey fire: Can’t rule out suspicious activity, says fire brigade

The report says that some portions of the hillock were unaffected by the blaze, which raises questions of whether some suspicious activity led to the fire.

mumbai Updated: Dec 13, 2018 08:34 IST
Steffy Thevar
Steffy Thevar
Hindustan Times
Aarey fire,Mumbai fire brigade,Nusli Wadia
On December 3, a fire broke out at 6.21pm behind New Mhada Colony at Goregaon (East) and took almost 14 hours to be completely doused. (Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)

The Mumbai Fire Brigade’s probe into the fire that broke out near Aarey Milk Colony on December 3 has not uncovered what specifically caused the blaze, but says suspicious activity cannot be ruled out. The report describes the cause of the fire as “doubtful” and says that it may be reviewed in the future if more evidence surfaces. The incident will now be investigated by the Mumbai Police.

On December 3, a fire broke out at 6.21pm behind New Mhada Colony at Goregaon (East) and took almost 14 hours to be completely doused. There were no casualties. Chief fire officer PS Rahangdale said, “Since the fire did not spread to Aarey land, we have only investigated the private plot where the fire was confined.”

During its inspection, the Mumbai Fire Brigade found some bottles and a half-burnt tyre, which indicate trespassing. The report mentions Nusli Neville Wadia (administrator of the estate (in India) of the late Eduji FE Dinshaw) as the owner and M/S Ferrani Hotel Pvt Ltd as the occupiers.

According to the department’s report, the cause of the fire, which was confined to an area of about 2.5 to 3 kilometres on a hillock, is “doubtful”. Although nobody came forward as an eyewitness to the actual occurrence of the fire, some witnesses said the origin of the fire was near a nullah on the north-east side of the plot. The report says that some portions of the hillock were unaffected by the blaze, which raises questions of whether some suspicious activity led to the fire.

The report also mentions that the department faced difficulties while dousing the fire since the terrain was hilly and difficult to access. The plot was barricaded with barbed wire and the presence of wild animals (like snakes, reptiles, insects), as well as the absence of electricity, proved to be a challenge. It also mentions there were strong winds and that the absence of an aerial mode of firefighting (like helicopters) was a problem.

While the report specifically mentions fire will now be investigated by the police, a senior police officer investigating the matter said, “We have not yet got any report from the fire brigade and we have informed all concerned agencies including forest department to submit their reports to us. Although our investigation is on from day one I will not be able to comment on anything on this until the final report is ready.”

State forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the land where the fire broke out is private property. “If the fire department report has raised any doubt over the incident, then the state home department will look into it,” he said.

First Published: Dec 13, 2018 00:28 IST