Fires in Mumbai buildings are no longer rare. The Mumbai fire brigade received around 7,500 calls for blazes, both major and minor, in the past two years. By contrast, BMC records show the fire brigade has inspected just 6,838 of the 2.9 lakh buildings in the city since October 2012. Of these, 4,453 have been sent notices for violations of fire safety rules. What is alarming is that only seven buildings have faced prosecution, the most recent being Lotus Business Park in Andheri where a fireman with the Borivali fire station lost his life.
Most recently, an inspection report into the December 15 blaze at Mumbai Central found several inadequacies in its fire prevention preparedness. A major tragedy was averted when firemen doused a blaze in one hour in the 21-storey railway quarters located opposite Mumbai Central railway station. Over a dozen of the 60 people evacuated had to be hospitalized. A few suffered serious burns and will need surgery.
Currently, officials involved in routine fire-fighting themselves inspect buildings and slap notices. Other than high-rises, they check malls and multiplexes. Officials admit that attending to fire calls makes regular inspection of structures difficult.
Keeping this in mind, the department is now working towards setting up a new inspection cell that comprises 99 officials whose only duty would be to inspect buildings and slap notices if norms are flouted and prosecute those responsible.
There are also plans to set up a computerized database, which would have all details regarding inspections and notices served. The department plans to emphasize on bi-annual inspection, once the software is in place.