A major fire that broke out in South Mumbai’s Walkeshwar area recently saw locals dipping into the Banganga Tank to douse the blaze. Pictures showed locals taking water from the heritage tank in buckets to put out the fire.
Days before that, a fire had broken out in a building near the Dadar flower market. Again, locals were the first to respond. Something similar happened when another fire broke out in the densely populated Chira Bazaar area in Girgaum, when a kerosene stove exploded in a building. The stove explosion was followed by a cylinder blast, which fuelled the blaze.
In all these cases, the residents alleged that the fire brigade took around 45 minutes to reach the spot after the call was made. Residents were thus left to battle the blazes all on their own, some even running into burning buildings to rescue those trapped. So many people owe their lives to the bravery of these locals who realised that they could not afford to wait for the fire brigade to arrive. These incidents illustrate the need for the fire brigade to cut the response time. And this won’t happen as long as the city gets the required number of fire stations, something that has been marred by red tape for a long time.
This becomes even more significant considering that we live in a city where traffic has gone from bad to worse and where fire engines often have no access through narrow lanes. The brigade should also look at modern equipment, as more and more high-rises come up.
In short, fire-fighting in Mumbai requires a two-pronged effort. Response of course, is the work of the authorities and cutting down time should, of course, be priority. But a more aware citizenry makes it just that much easier for the men in uniform. Motorists need to give way to fire engines at all times. That discipline should be ingrained in drivers. Working in tandem with authorities and making their path much smoother is the correct way to respond. It takes two to tango like they say, and two to fight the fire crisis in Mumbai.