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Navi Mumbai: Fire dept issues new advisory after blaze in Panvel building

Updated on: 11 November,2023 07:17 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Vinod Kumar Menon |

As firemen had to wait till owner came to unlock door, dept says ‘door openers’ will be made mandatory in all high-rises

Navi Mumbai: Fire dept issues new advisory after blaze in Panvel building

A flat on the 18th floor of Sai World City, Panvel, was gutted in a major fire on Friday

A major fire which gutted a flat in a high-rise building in Panvel on Friday has exposed several flaws in modern homes. A top fire official who believes ignoring the shortcomings could be fatal has decided to issue mandatory directives to high-rise buildings in his jurisdiction to address the flaws.
On Friday firefighters helplessly watched the passing of the ‘golden hour’ to control the fire inside a flat in a high-rise building in Panvel as they didn’t have access into the house. A flat in Sai World City, a plush high-rise near Palaspe Phata in Panvel, was gutted by the major blaze. The incident happened when the occupants of the house owned by a doctor were away.

Interestingly, the Panvel Fire Department had many takeaways from this fire incident, which did not have any fatalities, the fire department will be issuing certain mandatory directives to all the high rises within its jurisdiction under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act 2006, amended in 2023. 

Fast access to source of fire

S K Bodkhe, deputy chief fire officer, CIDCO, who is also holding acting charge of chief fire officer (CFO), Panvel Municipal Corporation, said, “We could have easily prevented the fire from spreading within the golden hour, had our firemen had access to the flat which was burning from inside. Our firemen and the trained security staff of the building had to wait for the owner to turn up and open the flat door.” This delay had resulted in the blaze spreading in the house and growing in intensity and thus causing more damage.

The intense blaze gutted the entire house but, fortunately, there were no casualties and the flames did not spread
The intense blaze gutted the entire house but, fortunately, there were no casualties and the flames did not spread

Bodkhe has decided to make use of his discretionary powers bestowed under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act and issue a mandate to all the high-rise buildings above 70 metres to have ‘door openers’ so that the firemen can break open the flats and carry out fire and rescue operation, within the golden hours.

Sprinkler was not effective

Bodkhe said it is mandatory for every new building, above 45 metres in height to have fire sprinklers passing through each and every room inside the flat under the National Building Code and also under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act.

“In this particular case the sprinkler was not reaching the area of the room which was on fire,” said Bodkhe. According to fire officials, mega housing complexes must have firefighters on hand to deal with crises.

“In mega housing complexes, it will be made mandatory to have a fire officer appointed along with firemen, so that these trained firemen can prevent major fire disasters and they will also be helpful during an emergency. In the case of societies, who cannot afford the service of fire officers, we will ask them to hire firemen in two shifts. We will be educating the chairman and secretary, for conducting regular fire audits and fire drills,” said Bodkhe.

Nearby highrise turns fire vigilant

Office bearers at India Bulls Green, a mega township with 22 highrises on the ground plus thirty-five floors, were seen conducting fire drills and inspecting of their fire equipment in their respective towers.

Confirming the same, K K Nambiar, Secretary of Indiabulls Green Aster building said, “We learnt about the fire in Sai World City, which is located less than two kilometres from our residential township, and the incident came as shocking, especially during the Diwali period. We immediately contacted our fire fighting licensed service provider and got the entire fire equipment and fire alarm system. Also, we have separated over 10 lakh litres of water storage facility only for fire fighting system.”

They also issued some guidelines for the residents ahead of Diwali; the guidelines stated that the residents should burst crackers between the time period mandated by the Bombay High Court. They asked the residents to not throw flammable materials from balcony area and asked residents to avoid bursting crackers within confined spaces like the lobby, balcony etc to avoid fire hazards. 

Expert view

M V Deshmukh, former director and fire advisor to state government, said, “The in-built fire safety systems in high-rises play a key role in fire-fighting,  evacuation and rescue operations. It is crucial to have adequate well-trained fire prevention officers and evacuation systems in every high-rise building or vulnerable occupancies should be adhering to the provisions of National Building Code. The need of the hour is to have assistant director-rank officer be appointed as multiple authorities in NMMC, Panvel area need to have unified command and control be appointed at the earliest, for the smooth coordination, quality of services  and the operation in a cohesive manners for fire fighting and rescue operations.

Word of caution for Diwali 

>> Ensure that no live flame is burning in the house at the place of worship or elsewhere before you leave the house or go to bed.
>> Ensure that a single socket is not used for giving multiple connections for decorative lights as overload can lead to short circuits.
>> Avail service of trained licensed electricians for decorating the balconies with decorative lights and lanterns.
>> Never use a lift in case of fire, and reach the nearest refuge area by staircase. Also use a wet cloth or towel to prevent smoke inhalation.
>> Ensure the glass windows and balconies are closed during evening hours, to prevent any accidental firecrackers like rockets and shots from entering rooms and causing damage.
>> Supervise children while bursting firecrackers and keep buckets filled with water nearby so first aid can be administered immediately in case of minor burns. 

Year law on fire prevention was ammended

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