The recent Lotus Business Park fire in Andheri (West) which resulted in the death of a fireman has thrown the spotlight squarely on the state of fire fighting in the city. It took nine hours to douse the flames last week and around 40 fire officials carried out the cooling operations at the Lotus Business Park.
There has been plenty of analysis post this fire, as there should be. One is happy to note that Mumbai showed a large heart and financial help for the dead fireman’s widow came from ordinary people too, who were moved by her plight from press reports.
Yet, sympathy is one thing, what is needed is a complete overhaul of the way we address, treat and fight fires in the city. Plenty of reports have surfaced about archaic equipment and uniforms that are not good enough for the fire fighting personnel. Also, as is our wont, we are lacking in disaster management.
It is evident that the personnel need modernisation and more contemporary equipment in fighting blazes. There has been a tragic and avoidable loss of life because of outdated methods. Many decisions, like the use of glass on building facades, are still at policy stage whatever that means.
Evidently, hard and quick decisions need to be taken to ensure that we are prepared for any eventuality. It always takes a disaster and a tragedy of some proportion to wake us up and that too, it may only be for a while before we tend to slip again.
With the infrastructure boom, the city has seen a huge number of high rises, both residential and commercial. Are buildings in the city accessible to fire personnel? Are the gates wide enough for a fire engine, would the road be cleared for quick access?
Do buildings have fire extinguishers? In commercial buildings, are office personnel instructed to undergo a fire drill so that they know just how to tackle things when a fire breaks out?
Is there some provision for people to make a quick exit in case of fire? There is most probably a ‘no’ to most of these questions. Firefighting needs a rethink and action on all fronts. There is no time like now, as fires wait for nobody.