A massive fire at Lotus Business Park in Andheri (west), which claimed a fireman’s life and injured 21 others on Friday, has finally jolted the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) into giving a serious thought to a stringent policy for the construction of glass-facade buildings that had been languishing since October last year.
Following two major fires in glass-facade buildings, the Mumbai fire brigade in October 2013 had come up with a policy that mandated automatic openings on every floor of such buildings as well as smoke detectors.
“The fire brigade, along with officials from the BMC’s Building Proposals (BP) department and some experts, have prepared tentative guidelines. However, we are yet to formulate a policy on such structures. After such a major incident, we will start focussing on such structures at the earliest,” Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte said Friday.
While builders opt for glass facades for an aesthetic appeal, they prove to be hazardous in cases of fire breaking out and during rescue operations. Glass facades block ventilation in a building and worsen the intensity of fire.
Deputy chief fire officer Sunil Nesarikar said, “The glass facade of the Lotus Business Park that caught fire started breaking and falling off, causing problems for firemen during the rescue mission. The debris proved to be really hazardous. Although firefighters try to break the glass structures, it is dangerous. Ventilation and access for firefighters is a must in such buildings.”
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The policy guidelines were prepared after a fire at the IndusInd Bank office in Andheri claimed four lives in June 2013. In September 2012, a blaze had gutted two floors of a commercial building in the Bandra-Kurla Complex.
The civic body has also delayed in purchasing a 90-metre snorkel to carry out firefighting and rescue work at skyscrapers. The decision to purchase the Rs 15-crore aerial ladder, capable of reaching up to 22 floors, was taken in 2012.
According to an official from the BMC’s disaster department, the 62-metre snorkel that was used on Friday could reach only till the 15th floor, causing major problems for the firefighters who had to then rely on the Navy and the Coast Guard to send their choppers.
“We have already issued tenders for the purchase of the snorkel and will get the equipment within a year,” said additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh.
A snorkel is an elevating platform designed to help firemen reach affected areas located at a good height.