As fire safety goes haywire, buildings turn disaster zones

Sep 23, 2011, 06:58 IST | Sheetal Sukhija

60 customers and 21 store staffers escape unhurt; fire service officials say building was illegally constructed, NOC was not applied for

60 customers and 21 store staffers escape unhurt; fire service officials say building was illegally constructed, NOC was not applied for
Barely 24 hours after a tragedy at a marriage hall in Sumanahalli claimed the lives of two persons and left 15 persons injured, including six fire force personnel, another massive fire erupted in Koramangala.

The fire was sparked off by a short circuit at Reliance Footprints building, a four-storeyed building in Koramangala 5th block, at about 12.30 pm.

Firefighters trying to put out the blaze at  the Reliance Footprint
outlet in Koramangala yesterday. It took around 50 fire bridges
and 13 fire tenders to tame the fire triggered by a short-circuit

Shockingly, the officials discovered that the builders had not obtained No Objection Certificate, either from the fire safety department or the BBMP, and was also violating other safety norms.

The Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services Department received a frantic call, but this time fire tenders were put in place in record time, unlike yesterday.

No casualities were reported despite 60 customers and 21 staffers being present at the time the short circuit triggered the fire.

Also, a major loss of material and damage could have been averted if staffers had alerted the fire brigade immediately, instead of attempting douse the fire when it initially started.

The fire safety department rushed in around 15 fire engines and deputed over 110 fire fighters to control the flames.

"When we reached the spot, dense smoke was bellowing from the second floor.
Upon preliminary investigations it came to light that a short circuit had started the fire on the second floor and plastic and rexine stocked on this floor also began to burn," said B K Hampa Gol, Deputy Director (technical), Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services Department.

"We received a call at 1.35 pm, but the fire had apparently started at about 12.15 or 12.30 pm and raged out of control," said Hampa.

Flouted rules
Furthermore, firefighting personnel also alleged that the building had violated more than a few norms.

"They have not obtained licenses to erect this building and do not have a No Objection Certificate either from the fire safety department or the BBMP. They do not have setbacks and deviations either," added Gol.

 A shaken staff members said, "All the customers vacated the store immediately and the scene was chaotic.
There were around 60 customers and around 21 staff members and we left the building immediately and a colleague alerted the fire safety department."

Traffic police were called in to manage the traffic, which had slowed down to a crawl.

"With the fire tenders occupying a major part of the road, we had to have two personnel at each stretch to clear the slow moving traffic.

Furthermore, vast crowds of bystanders from surrounding areas and colleges made things more complicated," said a traffic constable.

MiD DAY had pointed out last week that all the high rises and buildings that have been erected in the city do not have the required NOCs.

The High Court had also issued notice to the Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services Department to speed up inspection work on all buildings erected in the past five years.
Sources within the department said that the department has not issued any NOCs in the last two years.

"This only goes to prove that all the buildings, which have come up in the last two years do not have NOCs from the fire safety force and could all be prone to such disasters," said the source.

Meanwhile, when this reporter attempted to speak to the manager of the store, he was unavailable for comment.

Now, it remains to be seen whether the government will wake up and ensure that safety norms are followed strictly to avoid such problems in future.

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