Is the city prepared to avert fire tragedy?

Nitin Vaidya
Friday, 29 December 2017

MP Shirole asks PMC commissioner to conduct safety audit of all commercial establishments

Pune: After the Mumbai Kamala Mills fire incident, the question which arises in our minds is whether the city is prepared to avert a tragedy like Kamala Mills fire? The answer is ‘yes’, provided owners of commercial complexes take the prescribed precautions in the fire safety manual seriously.

“We are very strict in according NOC (No Objection Certificate) to commercial complexes,” said Kiran Gawade, Chief Fire Officer (CFO), PCMC. “To avoid illegal rooftop restaurants mushrooming in PCMC area, we insist on adhering to the plan submitted by the architect and no permission is given for the lift up to the terrace. However, our responsibility ends after giving NOC. In case there is illegal construction or encroachment it is dealt by another department,” said Gawade.

The government has accredited fire licensing agencies to carry out fire audit. It is the responsibility of the owners to ensure that the fire audit is carried out and the report is submitted to the fire department every six months.

The Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006 has adequate enabling provisions for the Fire Department. However, when questioned about the same, Gawade conceded that notices are not being given to owners on failing to submit the fire safety audit reports.

Neither are the NOCs revoked if it comes to light that the owner has carried out illegal alterations that violate fire safety norms. Gawade clarified, “Fire safety audit is an officer intensive task and the number of officers available is very inadequate.”

“It is necessary for all citizens to be vigilant and for the owners to follow all fire safety norms. This is what we always stress in all our interactions with citizens,” added the CFO.

Anil Shirole, Pune Lok Sabha MP, in a letter to the Municipal Commissioner, PMC emphasised on the need for a thorough fire safety audit in Pune city. “The safety audit should be conducted in public spaces like government office buildings, hospitals, railway stations, bus stations, airport and entertainment malls,” the letter stressed.

Shirole highlighted the requirement to assess the state of preparedness of the Fire Department to tackle “difficult situations” and the need for laying down a specific frequency for such audits.

PMC Commissioner Kunal Kumar, while speaking to Sakal Times, said the safety audits will be done. Kumar announced that he would soon launch the action against illegal structures starting next week.

The Joint Commissioner, Food and Drug Authority, when contacted, clarified that the FDA only looks into the food safety norms.

Ganesh Shetty, President of Pune Restaurant and Hotelier Association said, “We have sent a message to all our members to take adequate precautions for the year-end celebrations, like placing functional fire extinguishers, prominently, displaying exit points and briefing all staff on the safety measures.”

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