Vital records and files of the Finance Department, Haryana, are suspected to have been gutted in a fire that broke out in the Punjab and Haryana Civil Secretariat on Saturday evening. However, no injury was reported and the flames were doused in half-an-hour operation in which six fire emergency vehicles were pressed into service. The exact loss and damage of the records is yet to be ascertained.
According to officials, the incident was reported at around 6.15 pm. There was no one present in the Secretariat compound at the time except the security guards who noticed smoke coming out of the eighth floor of the Secretariat and immediately informed the fire department.
Three fire tenders, two water bowsers and a hydraulic platform rushed to the spot, along with police and fire officials. The Civil Defence members also reached the spot.
A team of fire-fighters went up to the 8th floor and broke the locks of the hall of the Haryana Finance Department which had caught fire while another team tried to douse the flames using the hydraulic platform. Once the locks and windows were opened, the fire was extinguished from the hydraulic lift.
Officials said that the extent of the damage and the cause of fire can only be ascertained at a later stage, but short circuit in the office is suspected to be the cause. Haryana government sources said that vital documents were lying in the office which are suspected to have been destroyed in the incident.
After the fire was extinguished, Sector 3 police station SHO Harjit Kaur, who was present at the spot, said, “How can I tell you the damage caused by the fire? I haven’t counted the files which were destroyed,” before walking away.
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Meanwhile, Chief Fire Officer Sunil Bhatia said that a few months ago, the MC had submitted a fire audit report of the Punjab and Haryana Secretariat building. “I cannot say whether the fire safety measures were adequate or not as I can’t recall the contents of the report,” he said.
However, Station Fire Officer M L Sharma said that many anomalies were found during the audit. “There were problems in the water storing system and smoke detectors. We will be conducting another survey shortly.”