Since January 2019, 57% of 12,743 hotels, malls and other commercial establishments in the city have been found violating fire safety norms, according to Mumbai Fire Brigade (MFB). Fire safety compliance has been in the spotlight since October 22, when a level 1 (small) fire at City Centre Mall in Mumbai Central rapidly escalated to level 5 (brigade call).
In a report submitted before the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) standing committee, MFB said, “From January 2019, inspection of several malls, hotels and commercial establishments were done. During this course, 12,743 hotels and establishments were inspected, after which fire compliance action was taken against 7,278 establishments.” MFB said regular inspection by a joint compliance team of BMC and MFB has issued several notices over non-compliance.
For fire safety compliance, the fire department conducts timely inspections, issues notices for non-compliance and stipulates a time period within which occupiers or developers must comply with the rules. If they do not, they are prosecuted in court. MFB also said 11,765 gas cylinders have been confiscated for illegal use in the last two years.
Adarsh Shetty from Ahar, an umbrella body for hotels and restaurants in Mumbai, said, “We have been regularly telling members of our association to ensure fire safety measures are up to date.” Shetty said there is greater attention on fire compliance at restaurants and hotels. “As we are out in the public, we are noticed more,” he said. Fire safety expert and President of Mumbai Fire Brigade Officers’ Association Prakash Devdas said, “Malls, hotels and commercial establishments are locations where footfall is high and hence, we need high-quality fire compliance. The problem with our fire officers is that they are not adequately trained to ascertain fire safety compliance as per Maharashtra Fire Act.”
Regarding the fire at City Centre Mall, MFB in its report said, “During firefighting at City Centre Mall, it was observed that the firefighting system inside the mall was non-functional. In this regard, appropriate action is under process.” Corporators from across party lines have questioned the quality of MFB’s fire safety inspection. Congress corporator and leader of Opposition Ravi Raja said, “If everything was perfect, why did the firefighting system of City Centre Mall not function? This means the inspection was not proper and hence action should be taken against the officers who did the inspection.” Samajwadi Party corporator Rais Shaikh said, “This is a serious lapse by the fire brigade and I demand the state to order a criminal probe to book those responsible.”