Shocking as it may seem, the state-run fire control room at Kalina was gutted in a blaze on Sunday afternoon. What is even more appalling is the fact that neither the fire alarm nor the sprinklers installed inside the air-conditioned main control room were working.

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The fire was caused by a spark in the modem (left) in the control room
The fire was caused by a spark in the modem (left) in the control room

For over a day, the state-of-the-art control room at Kalina, Santacruz remained disconnected from the 250 fire stations across the state, even as serious questions were raised as to why basic equipment such as the fire alarm and sprinklers in the building did not work in time.

Officials were tight-lipped about the incident on Sunday afternoon, which gutted the control room. It is unclear why the office personnel could not douse the fire in time, allowing the flames to spread and damage some of the high-end gadgets there.

With its high-tech gadgets, the control room was the pride of the state. In the end though, even the fire alarm and sprinklers didn’t work
With its high-tech gadgets, the control room was the pride of the state. In the end though, even the fire alarm and sprinklers didn’t work

A senior fire officer said, “The fire started in the control room a little past 1 pm on Sunday. The control room is one of its kind in the country. The fire started from the modem below the LCD screen and began to spread. A portion of two LCD screens had melted and the entire room was covered in thick smoke.”

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The ground-plus-eight building was completed in 2012 at a cost of Rs 40 crore. Pic/Suresh Karkera
The ground-plus-eight building was completed in 2012 at a cost of Rs 40 crore. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Another officer said, “It is not clear as to how many staffers were at the control room at the time of the incident. There were fire engines on the ground floor, but one of the trainee firemen, who stays on campus, used the fire extinguisher to douse the flames.”

No communication
Surprisingly, neither the local Vakola police station was informed about the incident, nor was the police control room kept in the loop. Sub-inspector Tejashree Yadav of Vakola police station said, “I have gone through the entire station diary, there is no intimation of fire received by us from MFS, Kalina. Usually the control room informs us about any fire, but we haven’t got any intimation in this case.”

Even the Mumbai control room has not been kept in loop. A fire officer from there said, “We have not been informed about such a fire. Ideally, we should have been informed as the building falls in the city jurisdiction.”

The other side
Mumbai fire chief and director of the state’s fire services, Prabhat Rahangdale tried to down play the incident, and said, “The fire started due to a short circuit and damaged two LCD TVs. The room was only being used for training purposes. Ever since I took charge as the director of fire services, I have been asking for additional manpower and upgrade of the software required to make it an operational, round-the-clock control room. This centre was never inaugurated; a formal inauguration will be done once everything is in place.”

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But Rahangdale’s predecessor, MV Deshmukh, who was also fire safety advisor to the state, said they had been running an operational control room there for three years. The MFS building was ready by 2012, but remains in the wait of official inauguration by politicians. The ground-plus-eight building was built at the cost of Rs 40 crore.

“When I was the director, I used to run a round-the-clock control room with limited manpower from there. It was fully operational with GIS connectivity to all 250 fire stations across the state, as well as all the main control rooms of police and agencies like Mantralaya. By clicking on a fire station on the GIS map, we could directly divert a call and instruct firemen at the spot to put out a fire. But this will be affected temporarily by the fire,” said Deshmukh.

He added, “The entire building has fire and smoke alarm system with sprinklers. It is surprising that these did not work when needed. Instead of owning up to it, the authorities are now stating that the MFS never had a control room, which is wrong and misleading.”