It's official: Faulty electrical circuit caused Metro House fire

The fire brigade’s report also says the building had no fire-fighting equipment, several staircases were blocked and there were illegal alterations

A faulty electrical circuit caused the fire at Colaba’s Metro House last month that houses Café Mondegar, Metro Shoes, McDonald’s among others. According to the fire brigade's final report submitted recently, a copy of which is with mid-day, the building had no firefighting equipment. Also, several staircases in the building were encroached upon, there were illegal additions and alterations, and there was storage in lofts against the rules. The fire brigade has now prohibited resumption of any commercial activity without its NOC. It has also given a host of instructions to MHADA and BMC for inspection of the structure.

No operations can resume in the building without the fire brigade’s NOC. Pics/Satej Shinde
No operations can resume in the building without the fire brigade’s NOC. Pics/Satej Shinde

A fire broke out in Colaba Causeway’s Metro House on June 2, which practically shut down the operations of all commercial establishments of the building. The fire had originated on the ground floor of B wing and spread rapidly to the upper floors of the ground+4 structure. It took the fire brigade 11 lines (number of water hoses in operation) to douse the fire. Two people had to be rescued from the terrace with the help of a ladder.

While the interim structural audit report asserted that the building was stable and did not need to be razed, the fire brigade’s report was awaited. The report was submitted to the brigade on July 2 by its officials and clearly mentions defective electric circuit as the cause of the fire.

Faulty installation
“Faulty electric connections and installations are becoming a real cause of concern for the brigade. The same seems to have happened in Kalbadevi, Damu Nagar last year. We have now instructed the BMC and MHADA on steps to be taken next. But since the building is close to 100 years old, it does not fall under the purview of the Fire Act and hence the owner cannot be prosecuted,” said a senior fire brigade official.

The report has recommended freeing the staircases of encroachment and wooden cabinets, and verifying the authenticity of the additions or alterations made to the building. It has also asked the ward’s Health Department to check if the lodging house operating on the building’s top floor had the necessary permissions. No operations can resume in the building without the fire brigade’s NOC henceforth.

While the report had identified alterations as one of the problems during the rescue operations which weakened the structure, there is no clarity on which agency would conduct the demolition drive.

“There is no provision in the MHADA Act to demolish encroachments. It is the BMC who will have to do it. We are awaiting a final audit report. Only after we see the report will we allow repairs to be undertaken. The building cannot be functional without repairs,” said Dilip Garje, executive engineer, MHADA.

“Actually it’s a cessed property looked after by MHADA. Let me first read the report and study the matter. Then we will see what is to be done,” said Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner, A ward.

Report says
>> As per the statements of eyewitnesses, on the site inspection and investigation done by the department, electrical installation (in the common electric metre box on the ground floor) was the reason for the mishap

>> Unauthorised encroachment, storage and display of combustible products in the staircases of both the wings, various illegal additions, alterations and lofts as factors that added to the fire. 

>> No firefighting equipment noticed in the building even though the said building is used for commercial purposes and as a shopping arcade

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