Mumbai hotel blaze: Fan regulator could have caused the fire

Closing in on the possible reason behind Friday's Kurla restaurant blaze, Government of Maharashtra fire advisor says waiter turning fan regulator caused spark that ignited LPG cloud on mezzanine floor

In order to ascertain what caused the City Kinara fire, officials are studying CCTV footage retrieved from the charred mezzanine floor. Camera 3, installed on the staircase leading to the mezzanine floor, has captured the minutes before the fire broke out. Just before the screen goes blank, the footage shows a waiter adjusting the fan regulator.

Watch the video below

The fan still hangs in the charred Family Room on the mezzanine level of City Kinara in Kurla where eight people lost their lives. Pic/Sameer Markande
The fan still hangs in the charred Family Room on the mezzanine level of City Kinara in Kurla where eight people lost their lives. Pic/Sameer Markande

This, fire experts say, could explain what caused the short-circuit. It is possible that the spark that naturally occurs when an electric appliance is switched on or off — even turning a fan regulator causes a spark — could have caused the short circuit.

A video grab from Camera 3 at City Kinara shows the waiter tinkering with the regulator (top left corner) seconds before the mezzanine erupts into a blaze
A video grab from Camera 3 at City Kinara shows the waiter tinkering with the regulator (top left corner) seconds before the mezzanine erupts into a blaze

Only one CCTV working
While the mezzanine floor had three CCTVs — there were two more on the ground floor — the other two are believed to have been damaged in the fire.

While there were three CCTVs on the mezzanine floor, police have managed to recover footage from only one - Camera 3, which was on the staircase. The other two have been damaged. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
While there were three CCTVs on the mezzanine floor, police have managed to recover footage from only one - Camera 3, which was on the staircase. The other two have been damaged. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

Speaking to sunday mid-day, MV Deshmukh, fire advisor, Government of Maharashtra, said, “LPG gas is heavier than air and, hence, has a tendency to settle on the floor or confine to spaces. It can even form a cloud of gas in a corner of the room.”

Also read: Mumbai hotel blaze - A terrible tragedy that could've been worse

What this means is that unless the room has large windows, the gas cloud will remain in the room. The window on the Kinara City mezzanine floor was a small grilled one, which means there’s little chance that the gas would have escaped, even though it was open.

Deshmukh also said that if the concentration of LPG gas in air is below 1.8 per cent, it is too ‘lean’ to burn. The maximum concentration of LPG gas in air, referred to as upper explosive limit, is 9.5 per cent. “And, prima facie it seems, that the fire trigger could be the rotating fan or the regulator that was operated seconds before the fire broke out,” he said.

He added that it was a serious lacuna on the part of the restaurant to have allowed an LPG cylinder to be kept on the mezzanine floor. An LPG cylinder should be placed on the ground floor. Where the cylinders are used for commercial purposes, pipes can connect the cylinder to floors above.

Assistant Police Commissioner (Kurla division) Srirang Nandgauda said, “We are awaiting the fire department’s report to ascertain the exact reason for fire and accordingly will probe the case.” Till now, police have not detained any restaurant staff.

BMC crackdown
Municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta has ordered inspection of small eateries across the city. A team of members of the fire brigade, health and license department officials from each ward will check if commercial establishments have fulfilled BMC and fire brigade norms.

Also read: Kurla hotel blaze - 'False ceiling collapsed on diners'

They will also check if any illegal alterations have been made after giving the NOC, or if there has been any change of use of the space. The drive will start from Monday and grade II and III structures (small ones) will be inspected first. The BMC has set a target of 10 inspections per day in each ward.

PWD, forensic visit site
A team of experts from Public Works Department and scientists from the chemistry and DNA division of the State Forensics Science Laboratory visited Kinara City on Saturday.

PWD officials are trying to ascertain electrical flaws that may have trigged the fire and FSL scientists have gathered charred furniture, fixtures etc from the spot, to ascertain if there was any other inflammable substance on the at the scene. DNA samples, cloth pieces, bones etc were also collected from the scene of incident to help identify the deceased.

Meanwhile, a team of experts from Hindustan Petroleum is also slated to visit the restaurant for inspection, as police have found that both the cylinders belonged to HPCL. Police want HPCL experts to ascertain if the gas pipeline connecting the cylinder to the nozzle had been fitted as per norms. Police have ascertained that the restaurant had a licence to use commercial LPG.

Resolve this

>> Police says preliminary findings by fire department states that the fire was due to a short circuit. But, where and how this happened is yet to be established

>> Fire department claims that there was an LPG gas leak. But, so far they haven’t ascertained from which cylinder

>> Fire department is still checking if the hotelier had obtained an NOC from the fire department

>> Police has found one empty and one half-filled commercial LPG cylinder on the first floor. But, it doesn't know when the cylinders were last refilled

>> None of the restaurant employees have been questioned. Sharad Tripathi, who runs the restaurant, is absconding

>> BMC tight lipped over illegal modifications and changes done within the restaurant. No action has been taken for construction of illegal pantry on the mezzanine floor

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