The first 10 minutes after a fire breaks out are crucial. And the way clubs, cafes, bars and offices operate in Sector 26 with narrow entries and improper fire safety — this golden period that can save lives will be the first casualty.
Narrow staircases leading to dingy offices with expired fire extinguishers, hose reels without pipes, no sprinkler systems or automatic smoke detectors or alarm system — the entire lane of Sector 26 is sitting on a tinderbox.
A reality check done by The Indian Express of every club/bar, offices on the ground floor, basements and the first floor in Sector 26 revealed how if a fire breaks out either on the first floor or in the basement or even on the ground floor, it would be difficult for the firemen to reach the site. To make matters worse, there is no fire safety equipment.
According to the fire department, the sprinkler system works automatically in case of a fire, something that was missing in the majority of the showrooms. Hose reels and landing valve that are either gathering dust or are not in a proper manner too have an important role. They are connected with the terrace fire water tank and can be used in case of a fire. Similarly, the automatic detection and alarm system too forms a major component which is missing in the majority of cases, with offices being the major defaulters in the lane.
Near the Flexity gym, a dingy entrance leads to the way towards the first floor to the office of insurance company that is where the Canara HSBC Life insurance staff sits. The location is exactly in the same row where a major fire broke out last week. The smoke that engulfed the area and made it entirely black hasn’t gone but even that doesn’t wake up the authorities.
Electric meters are installed outside the offices on the first floor. The staircase is so narrow that if a fire breaks out, people will have to be evacuated after breaking the dark windows on the first floor. Though the hose pipes were in place, the fire safety equipment was missing.
Moving a little ahead, a similar scenario was visible on the ground floor of the Captain Sam’s where Indo-Italian buffet was being served for Rs 449. Though the staff was still cleaning the floor, the basement didn’t show much of fire safety equipment.
Close to this venue was a narrow lane leading to the Real Salon and Spa on the first floor. Electric meters were installed towards the staircase with no proper mention of exit and entry. The entrance was so squeezed that it would be difficult to take people out in case of a fire.
Another showroom close by, OP Ghai and associates, was selling a lot of combustible building material as well but a walk into the showroom could not find even a fire extinguisher, what to talk of proper fire safety equipment. The shop was heavily loaded with goods and other stock.
This was all in the lane where their neighbour witnessed such a major fire. Even that did not wake any of them up to ensure any fire safety.
Walking into the next block was the entrance to The Great Bear, a dark entry welcomes you where the person asks for a booking if any. Though the inside of it was open, yet proper fire safety equipment was conspicous by its absence.
The same is true for Pizza Hut.
The Brew estate has its kitchen operating near the entrance if one enters from the front side of Sector 26, that is Madhya Marg. Gas is being used from the cylinders but even a fire extinguisher couldn’t be seen during the walk inside the area. In case of a cylinder explosion, it would be difficult to manage the area. The same was true for Goyal Electric Company as well.
Near the Red Orchid spa too, the hose reel had no pipe at all and the system was installed without the pipe, what to speak of the other fire safety equipment.
The narrow staircase leading to a chartered accountant’s office operating from the first floor too in the same lane had no functional fire extinguisher as well, let alone the sprinkler system or the automatic detection system or even the landing valves.
No proper fire safety equipment
Last Monday, that is February 27, a fire broke out in the basement of a Sector 26 showroom. No casualty was reported in the incident. However, the material and goods in the basement were damaged and gutted.
The situation was such that the fire could not be controlled even after 24 hours of the incident. Smoke engulfed the entire area and the scenario was such that even the roof outside the entire lane of showrooms was entirely black. So much so, the impact was so huge that nearby shops-cum-offices had ash on their floors too.
Sources in the fire department stated that there was no fire safety equipment. The sprinkler system was absent which was necessary.
Fire safety audit
Chandigarh Municipal Commissioner Anindita Mitra has ordered a fire safety audit of all the buildings in Chandigarh. As many as 2.5 lakh buildings will be subject fire safety check by a team of fire department of Chandigarh.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Municipal Commissioner Mitra had said, “There are about 2.5 lakh buildings which will be audited in terms of fire safety. The entire process is to be completed within six months. All the buildings will be checked as per the National Building Code.”
Many markets and buildings do not comply with the basic fire safety norms. This holds true for city hotels, private hospitals, showrooms, shops-cum-offices, office buildings, schools, other showrooms and business shops.
Kiosks like those at Shastri Market in Sector 22, Palika Bazar in Sector 19 do not have any proper fire safety as yet. These markets see hundreds of visitors and the lanes are so narrow that it would be difficult for a fire tender to even reach there. Chandigarh Mayor Anup Gupta told The Indian Express that “he will review the status of fire NOCs” and camps would be held.
‘No technical fire officer’
Aam Aadmi Party councillor Yogesh Dhingra had in the previous House meeting raised the issue of the fact that till now there is no technical person as the chief fire officer in a city like Chandigarh.
In a statement issued he had said that “fire and rescue services MC Chandigarh is providing emergency public service to protect life and property. The fire department is presently being run by a non-technical non-experienced chief fire officer who is a PCS officer-Joint Commissioner.”
He said that because of this decision, life of people can be at risk as such sensitive departments don’t have a technical person who can lend their technical experience to the department.
“After all, the supervision of an entire fire department is neither under the technical chief fire officer nor under the top senior most fire officer. I would rather say that under non-technical fire officer, many irregularities are going on,” he said.
Yogesh also pointed out the faulty manner in which fire NOCs were being given. He said without proper checking, the fire officials were issuing NOCs which was wrong. However, the General House had said that he should bring to the fore specific examples and not just level allegations.
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