Firefighting starts with following rules

Even as you read this, shopkeepers at Crawford Market are trying to salvage what is left of their shops from Sunday’s fire, which gutted around 50 shops. The acrid smell of smoke still lingered in the air as BMC commissioner, Ajoy Mehta, visited the spot to issue a warning to locals to stay away from the spot.

It is fortunate that no lives were lost in the blaze, though it will be hard going for shopkeepers, who have lost everything. It is time to come down heavily on any large scale encroachment around the market, which closes off exit and entrance avenues.

Many shops inside this market store inflammable material like perfumes and cosmetics. Several stalls in and around Crawford Market also stock firecrackers for the festive season. One report stated that several shops had illegal lofts.

The area is always crowded, but its lanes are especially thick with shoppers during Diwali time, because it is a hub for gift shopping. Shops do brisk business during this time.

While a complete makeover may be impossible this time, shops must be told to have a modicum of firefighting equipment inside. The narrow lanes choked with vehicles should be kept free, at least to allow movement of firefighting vehicles. The shopkeepers should be educated about fire hazards.

Exits to the market must be clearly marked, especially for shoppers, who may be unaware of the layout of this mammoth structure. Like so many markets in Mumbai, this one too is a tinderbox because of various factors.

Let this fire ring some warning bells for authorities and shopkeepers alike, bringing about some change both in the mindset and methods. Let us, as is our wont, not wait for a tragedy of mammoth proportions to wake up to the real dangers and hazards, posed by issues — such as encroached roads and pavements, illegal extensions in structures, and other safety norms being flouted.

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