Blaze at fort: Fire department to haul up building authorities over lack of fire equipment

No casualties were reported in the blaze in a commercial building in South Mumbai; fire department battled the flames for nearly six hours

A major fire broke out at a commercial building in South Mumbai yesterday around 9.20 am. A senior fire brigade official said that they did not find any fire-fighting equipment in the four-storey building and neither there was any fire audit conducted.
“We will prosecute them and send them a notice on Friday,” said K V Hivrale, deputy chief fire officer, who conducted the operation.

Fire fighters tackling the smoke emanating from Harish Chambers.
Fire fighters tackling the smoke emanating from Harish Chambers. Pic/ Ajinkya Sawant

The building, named Harish Chambers, is located near Naval Dockyard in the Fort area.

The fire was so massive that it took the eight fire engines six hours to douse the flames. Initially, four fire engines and four water tankers were sent to the spot, but later, four more were pressed into action.

“The biggest challenge was locating the source. Even with the breathing apparatus, it was very difficult to get to it. The heat and smoke in the narrow passage was tremendous,” informed Hivrale.

After fire brigade officials had reached the source, there was a problem of access. They then had to punch three holes in the adjacent wall to gain the access.

The fire originated from inside the main switch of a medical insurance firm by the name of Medicare TPA India Pvt Ltd, located on the second floor.

Deepak Gawde, who is a senior executive at the company, said. “We saw smoke coming out of the main entrance. The peon told me that he opened the office around 8.30 am and turned on the main switch, as usual. When the power supply was not restored, he turned it off and went away for about 10 minutes. We guess by the time he returned, there was a short circuit that gave rise to the flames, near the door.”

There are 10-12 offices in the building that are enclosed and have alterations like false ceilings, partitions etc.

“The wooden partitions and the stationery fanned the flames. The entrance to the building was narrow and choked with smoke. The second floor passage was choked too,” added Hivrale.

Though there were no reports of casualty, one person was stuck on the terrace.

“I was in the office when I saw the flame. I rushed towards the staircase but it was filled with smoke. Then I ran to the terrace,” recalled Hadak Singh, a peon who was rescued after half an hour.

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