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Mumbai's firemen prepared for all challenges, but more public awareness needed on fire safety, says CFO Prabhat Rahangdale

Back-to-back fire tragedies in the millennial city have put the spotlight back on fire safety in the ever-expanding metros. But, the Directorate of Maharashtra Fire Services Director and Mumbai Fire Brigade's chief fire officer, Prabhat Rahangdale says the city’s firemen are all prepared to counter any blazing mishap.

In an interview with Firstpost, Rahangdale nonchalantly pointed of the callousness of builders, city administration, planners and the citizens which, he says, is the cause of the rise in such incidents. “All the casualties which take place to happen before our team reaches the incident spot, once there, our firemen make sure they rescue everyone,” he said.

 Mumbais firemen prepared for all challenges, but more public awareness needed on fire safety, says CFO Prabhat Rahangdale

File image of CFO of Directorate of Mumbai Fire Services Prabhat Rahangdale. Image courtesy: Twitter @prabhatfire

According to Rahangdale, the delay in reaching the fire site is caused due to obstructive city planning, illegal parking and also the high number of inflammables present in areas such as slums and open dwellings. “Vertical fire fighting is a challenge, but our team finds it difficult to access areas where there is a chance of the fire spreading very quickly due to the presence of gas cylinders and other inflammables.

It is not surprising thus, that recently there have been numerous incidents of factory fires where there is an abundance of such items. However, Rahangdale says the use of fire on a day-to-day basis can’t be reduced. “It’s a routine necessity,” he says. But, it is up to the people to ensure that the element is handled carefully and all instructions are followed properly.

It has been found in some cases of fires in residential buildings that the structures did not have the required fire safety permit and yet they were inhabited leaving them bare for possible hazards. Rahangdale says such buildings, most often than not, do not have the Occupancy Certificate (OC) and are illegally occupied reflecting negligence on the part of the builder. In such a case, he says, the building never comes under the fire department’s notice since its permit letter never reaches them.

However, the department ensures it carries out its routine check on all buildings which come under the purview of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention Act, 2006 (which got implemented in 2008). Rahangdale, while explaining the process of how his team does follow-ups, says that it is the “owner and occupier responsibility” to check the fire safety norms in their building and to see equipments such as fire alarms, hoses and fire extinguishers are up-to-date and functional.

Whereas, the fire brigade teams do two types of check-ups every month: Under Section 4 of the Act- Done ward-wise in establishments where there is an imminent danger and this can be undertaken by any fire officer; Under Sections 5,6,7 and 8, Done as per hazard mapping with each inspector assigned with a certain kind of inspection to be carried out.

Also, it is mandatory under Section 3 of the Act, to give notice to the non-compliant buildings and give them a stipulated time (which varies from seven to 120 days) to get the required provisions in place.

But Rahangdale says, once the notice is withdrawn after final inspection (post submission of Form B), people forget about the importance of maintaining norms. If rules are flouted, we do further prosecution and cut the electrical supply but people need to be more concerned about fire safety, he stresses giving an example of countries like USA, where regular fire safety drills are conducted in all commercial establishments.

“Awareness starts with you,” remarked the fire chief maintaining that more awareness has spread among people after the Kamala Mills tragedy which claimed 14 lives. We received 15,400 calls received in 2018-19, out of which 4,900 were fire calls, Rahangdale said highlighting the drop in fire calls received by the Mumbai fire brigade over the years.

He also shrugged off the reports of any mass vacancy in the fire department claiming that in three years, 700 firemen were recruited by the department which, as a part of its dynamic process, aims to recruit around 400 to 500 more.

The data released by the Directorate of Maharashtra Fire Services reveals that the number of inspections done has gone up over the years. A new compliance circular was brought in place in August 2018 by the fire department following the Kamala Mills tragedy on 29 December, 2017.

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Updated Date: Feb 08, 2019 14:43:27 IST

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