A 50-year-old commercial cum residential building in Kalbadevi was engulfed in flames after a loud explosion, followed by a major fire, which broke out at 4.30 pm on Saturday. In just half an hour, the fire had destroyed all five floors of the building. The fire struck the ground floor of Gokul Niwas building first, and then slowly engulfed all five floors. Two fire fighters lost their lives.
What is vital is to note the agonising difficulty fire engines faced in reaching the site. The lane in which the building stands is very narrow and what compounded problems was the illegal parking of vehicles, delaying the fire operation.
The biggest problem, of course, is access to buildings, so it is imperative that the minute people see a fire, they make some effort to move their cars and two-wheelers out of the way. The lanes, at least, need to be kept clear of illegal parking. Take fire drills seriously, and do not think that this can never happen to you.
People have to be civic minded enough to let ambulances and fire engines pass first in times of emergency. It is easier said than done, but many times we do see that people are inconsiderate, preventing ambulances from going ahead on the roads.
There were a number of other problems, like the availability of just one snorkel ladder and the paucity of water. We have to realise that the city has so many such buildings at risk, and firefighting is getting increasingly tough. There is a desperate need to review our firefighting methods. While new building complexes do have some fire extinguishers in the building, older buildings do not. Every building can do with at least a modicum of fire fighting equipment, which can be used initially till the firefighters arrive.
It is a huge tragedy that two firefighters lost their lives, battling the blaze. It is time Mumbai realises that while the men in uniform are the experts, everybody needs to do their bit when it comes to a fire. If one cannot help, do not hinder at least.