The blaze at JK Somani building, Colaba. Pic/Shadab Khan
A short-circuit in the air conditioning unit of a SoBo building caused a massive fire last night that has reduced the structure almost to ashes. The fire brigade struggled for eight hours to control the fire in the four-storey structure. There were 20-odd people in the commercial building when the fire started, but they all managed to run out in time. .
JK Somani, a four-storey building, just behind Bombay Stock Exchange reported a fire when repair work on an AC was going on the second floor. The workmen tried to douse the fire with a fire extinguisher, but the fire continued to spread. Finally, a call was made to the fire brigade control room at 9.26 pm.
The blazing air conditioner that fell at the spot from where fire fighters had moved away from just minutes earlier
Despite the narrow lanes, the fire brigade reached the spot within 10 minutes. By then the fire had spread all over the second floor. After two hours of continuous fire fighting, the fire was doused. Cooling operations started around 11.30 pm. Fire brigade officials thought their job was done and started winding up their machinery. But, 10 minutes past midnight, heavy smoke started billowing from the second floor. Within minutes, the flames reappeared and after 15 minutes, a cylinder exploded in the building. The rapidly spreading fire then reached the third floor. The fire was contained around 2.45am but was completed doused only at 6.44 am.
JK Somani building, a ground-plus-three structure is mostly made of wood. The ground floor of the building has been empty for a month. The first floor was owned by a group of advocates who have 20 cabins on the entire floor. The second and third floors belonged to Systematix Shares and Stocks, a share broking firm.
Residents of the area outside the gutted building this morning
The first floor occupied by the advocates was renovated recently and was reopened just five days ago. “I started my law practice in 2004. For the last 12 years I had been saving money to buy my own space and managed to buy one here only a few days ago. Now, I am not sure if there is anything left of my office,” said advocate Amol Patil.
Sanjay Jain, secretary of Oval House society, which is next to J K Somani House, said, “I had offered help to fire officials telling them that our fire system was available for use. But, fire officials dismissed my offer,” Jain said.
Amol Patil, advocate
Fire chief Kailash Hiwrale said, "Every commando on the team tried their best to douse the fire, but the narrow lanes were a big hurdle. Except for the pillars, the entire building is made of wood. The fire had been contained to a small section of the second floor, but wood and papers fuelled it and it started spreading rapidly. The explosion of three cylinders made matters worse.”