Fire officials may not qualified to inspect compliance; Mumbai civic body seeks legal advice
Two years after appointing more than 100 officers to inspect fire safety in structures across the city, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has now sought legal opinion to check if they are qualified for the position as per the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006. As per the Act, a fire officer should have a certificate of fire prevention course from the State Fire Academy, Government of Maharashtra, before appointment.
These nominated officers are tasked with conducting inspections to ensure fire compliance of establishments and issue fire no objection certificates (NOCs).
Documents accessed by HT revealed that BMC is unsure of the nominated officers’ qualifications and sought legal opinion to determine whether they can continue to hold the positions, even if they do not have the required course certificate.
I A Kundan, additional municipal commissioner, said, “We have sought legal opinion and the appointment of nominated officers is valid. We will proceed with further directions very soon.”
The Fire Brigade Officers Association (FBOA) has pointed out to the administration that none of the 119 nominated officers have completed the course.
Prakash Devdas, president of the association, said, “New fire officials were not appointed and the old staff was given the additional work of inspection, without considering the requirement of qualification. Alongside attending fire calls, the staff is now burdened with compliance work as well.”
Currently, the Fire NOC has to be granted jointly by fire officer, health officer and building-factory engineers of the concerned BMC ward. Fire officers alleged that this norm is not followed.
Civic officials said that nominated officers are reluctant to take on additional responsibility.“Fire officers are being made a scapegoat. In case of a tragic incident, the fire officials are blamed, whereas officials from the ward are equally responsible to ensure fire safety,” said one of the nominated officers.
A major fire gutted two high-end restaurants, Mojo’s Bistro and 1Above, at Kamala Mills compound in Lower Parel on December 29, killing 14 people. The fire probe report stated that flying embers from a charcoal sigree, used to serve hookahs, came in contact with the curtain and were the main cause of the blaze. Officials from the BMC and MFB were arrested for failing to perform their duties.