Victims' condition hampers probe into fire station blaze

Jan 18, 2013, 07:16 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Mystery still reigns over the exact nature of negligence that caused a fire inside the Sewri fire station on Monday, which critically injured a fireman and security guard

MiD DAY had reported on how a bonfire in a ghamela (metal container), brought inside the fire station by a security guard and a fireman, went out of hand and caused a conflagration on Monday (‘Firemen light bonfire, set fire station ablaze’, Jan 15).

Police officials not collecting charred samples for forensic examination will leave gaping lacunae in investigations. The samples would have determined the exact nature of the inflammable substance that caused the fire. It is assumed that petrol was used

A senior fire officer said, “Though an enquiry has been initiated, there are many grey areas which only the injured could throw light on. How did they get access to the petrol? Why was the ghamela brought into the watch room? But since both victims are in a critical state with internal burns, recording their statement is a bit difficult at this stage.”

The fact that the police have not collected charred samples for forensic examination will also leave gaping lacunae in investigations, as the samples would have determined the exact nature of the inflammable substance that caused the fire. As of now there is no concrete evidence on which to base the assumption that petrol was used to intensify the flames. “Even if the usage of petrol is being ascertained, any scientific corroboration of fact would always add value to the probe,” explained a fire officer.

M V Deshmukh, director of fire and emergency services and fire advisor to the state government, admitted that forensic support is seldom taken when probing fires. According to Deshmukh, preliminary inquires suggest that nearly half a litre of petrol was used to increase the intensity of the flames in the bonfire.

He added, “If this incident hadn’t happened, I would not have been aware of such bonfires being lit inside the fire station to keep away mosquitoes and the cold. I admit that we have failed to address this problem of our fire fighters. I am sorry about this, but we have learnt from our mistakes. We will ensure that such incidents are not repeated.”

A fire officer said, “As per the rule, an initial fire report has been submitted to civic commissioner Sitaram Kunte and a detailed report will be submitted once the probe is completed.” The injured fireman Amabadas Padir (42) and Rajesh Shinde (26) continue to be critical, with Shinde being put on ventilator support after breathing problems.

Plastic surgeon and medical director of the National Burns Centre Sunil Keswani said, “At this moment it is not possible for us to know the extent of burns to the internal organs of Shinde and Padir. Neither can the external burns be categorised as deep or superficial at this stage.”

Dr Keswani added, “Shinde was finding it difficult to breathe. We have provided him ventilator support. We have kept a ventilator on standby for Padir too.” He added, “They are likely to remain in a critical condition for the next few days.” On Tuesday morning, Chief Fire Officer S V Joshi conducted a high-level meeting with fellow officers and discussed the incident. He was also keen to know how the media got wind of the same. 

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