Stricter fire safety rules in the works in Chandigarh

After years in slumber, the Chandigarh municipal corporation is finally set to enforce stricter fire safety rules with harsher penalties against violators and additional powers to its fire department for enforcement. The new rules will allow the fire department to remove encroachments (that may cause fire or obstruct movement during a fire rescue) from markets and houses. In addition to the power to seal the premises that violate fire safety norms, the MC will be authorised to cancel water connection in such cases.

An increase in the quantum of fines, with provision for imprisonment, is also in the works. Violations will include failure to share information regarding an outbreak of fire, failure to take precautions to prevent fire and wilfully obstructing the rescue operations.

It was in the aftermath of the fire tragedy at a paying guest accommodation in Sector 32 that led to the death of three girls on February 22, 2020, that the MC officials realised the civic body was following now defunct Delhi Fire Prevention and Fire Safety Act, 1986, and outdated rules under the repealed Act.

“The fire department lacked enough teeth to punish property owners who violated fire safety norms, particularly those creating permanent or temporary structures that blocked firefighting and rescue efforts. At the time of the Sector 32 fire incident, it fell upon the UT estate office to take lead in initiating action against the violators under building rules,” said an MC official, privy to the development.

While the national capital adopted Delhi Fire Safety Act, 2007, in 2010, the MC neither adopted the new law nor revised its rules formulated under the previous Act to keep these in line with the changed circumstances over the years. Confirming the development, Anil Kumar Garg, additional commissioner, MC, said: “We will be adopting the Delhi Fire Service Act, 2007, with modifications as per the city’s needs, and will formulate rules thereunder.
For formulating fresh rules, the MC has constituted a committee headed by Garg, which comprises all fire station officers, law officer and fire superintendent. The committee’s report will be approved by the MC House.