MUMBAI: The planned overhaul and upgradation of Mumbai’s fire services needs to be put on the fast track to enable firefighters to meet the challenges of an ‘overloaded city’, the city’s fire chief said on Saturday. A Mumbai-based NGO also waded into the debate over the city’s fire response, especially in the wake of a blaze in a hospital which left 11 dead, blaming corruption and the employees’ union for the ‘messed up management’ of fatal fires in the city.
“The reply to an RTI query has revealed that there were over 48,000 fires in the city over the last 10 years, in which around 700 people lost their lives. Yet, around 70 per cent buildings in the city do not comply with minimum fore safety standards. We set fire safety norms from time to time, but they are seldom adhered to. And, neither is any action taken against violators. The main reason for this is corruption,” said Nicholas Almieda, an activist who has been raising his voice over rising fire incidents in the city through Watchdog Foundation, the city-based NGO founded by him.
Almeida resides near the area, where the ESIC hospital, which caught fire last Monday, is located. “The hospital did not have adequate equipment to douse the flames. They didn’t have ladders to reach the hospital’s top floor where several patients were trapped. This testifies to the sorry state of affairs and is a classic example of everything that’s wrong with Mumbai’s fire safety response,” he said.
Prabhat Rahangdale, Mumbai’s fire chief said, “Departmental enhancement has been our thrust for the last few years. We have set up 17 mini fire stations, in addition to the existing 33. As many as 700 new fire fighters have been recruited. Experienced firefighters have been given promotions so that the city can benefit from their experience in handling such situations. Old vehicles have been phased out and replaced. Now, 60% of our vehicles are new.”