Mumbai: 20 firemen entered burning Powai building without safety gear

Show cause notices have been issued to the firemen, who endangered their lives by failing to wear protective uniforms despite a circular bring released following the Kalbadevi fire, in which the same lapse was noticed; senior officers present at the spot have also been asked for an explanation

Despite suffering a huge setback in the Kalbadevi blaze last month, in which they lost four of their colleagues including their chief the city’s firemen seem to have learnt no lessons.

The errant firemen threw on an ordinary coat and a helmet over their normal uniforms
The errant firemen threw on an ordinary coat and a helmet over their normal uniforms

Having noticed that several firemen had battled the fire in Gokul Niwas without the proper safety gear issued to them, the fire brigade had issued a circular to all of its employees in May, asking them to ensure that this major lapse was not repeated.

The protective uniforms that they should have worn consist of a fire-retardant coat, trousers, boots and a helmet. They also come with a torch and hammer
The protective uniforms that they should have worn consist of a fire-retardant coat, trousers, boots and a helmet. They also come with a torch and hammer

When the fire broke out in the Lake Homes society in Powai on Saturday, however, the same scenario played out again, and more than 20 firemen were seen endangering their lives by entering the building without the proper safety gear.

Taking a stern approach, the fire department has issued show cause notices to these firemen and said that action will be taken against them if they are found guilty. Notices will also be sent to the senior officers overseeing the operation for failing to make sure that the men wore the proper uniforms.

Acting Chief Fire Officer P S Rahangdale said, “We have noticed that during the Powai fire, many fire fighters did not make use of their protective uniforms. Thus, the department has decided to issue show cause notices. We will file chargesheets against them and take action if they are found guilty.”

Safety last?
Nearly 75 personnel from the Marol, Kurla, Vikhroli, Vile Parle and Mulund fire stations had been called to fight the Lake Homes fire. Officials noticed however, that instead of wearing the protective uniforms issued to them consisting of a fire-resistant coat, trousers, boots and a helmet more than 20 firemen just threw on the helmet and an ordinary coat over their uniform and went in to battle the fire.

Seven people were killed in the blaze and 26, including an assistant fire station officer, were injured, and fire officials say this number could have been higher because the firemen did not wear the proper uniform. “The protective uniform is essential because it can save the firemen from injuries and even death. It’s shocking that the firemen did not wear the uniform even after four men died in the Kalbadevi fire and a circular was issued,” said a fire official.

‘Expiry date’
Some firemen that mid-day spoke to, however, claimed that the protective uniforms were old. They said they were purchased in 2009 by the BMC and given to them in 2010 and they have been made to use the same since. “Just like every other thing, these uniforms come with an expiry date. How can we use the same uniform for five years? The uniform is also loose,” said a fireman, adding that they have asked for new protective uniforms.

Rubbishing these contentions, Ranhangdale said, “There is no such thing as an expiry date for the uniform. Till it does not tear it is suitable for use. There are so many firemen who have not made use of this uniform at all. Also, the protective uniforms are loose as they are supposed to be worn over the normal uniform. By not wearing the protective uniform, they are just increasing the risk to their lives.” “The officers who were leading the crews will also be sent a show cause notice asking them why they did not ask the firemen to wear their protective uniforms,” added the acting chief.

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