Over a year after the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) formed a sub-committee of heritage and fire-fighting experts to prepare a fire safety framework for heritage structures in the city, the Mumbai Fire Brigade (MFB) has inspected only three buildings — the Bombay High Court (HC), the Mantralaya building and the Old Customs House till date.
In the first meeting of the newly reconstituted MHCC in 2012, it was decided to inspect all heritage structures in the list and frame safety guidelines on a case-to-case basis. The committee comprised conservation architects, fire officers and heritage committee members.
“We had submitted the list of the structures to the fire brigade over a year ago to take immediate action. However, the fire brigade doesn’t have the requisite manpower to inspect all the heritage structures in the city. We had then requested them to begin the inspection of public heritage structures. However, they have completed the inspection of only three structures,” said MHCC Chairman V Ranganathan.
Fire audits of heritage buildings is a crucial aspect in their conservation.
The three buildings inspected by the fire brigade are Grade-II heritage structures. A major part of the restoration of the Crawford market planned from October includes repair works for the electrical ducts as the 145-year old Grade-I heritage structure has no fire safety measures in place.
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While a Grade-I building is deemed to be of national or historical importance and no structural changes in it are allowed, minor repairs are allowed in Grade-II structures, and redevelopment is permitted in Grade-III structures.
“Due to the limited manpower now, the fire brigade has suggested that the owners of the structures approach the fire auditors listed with the Maharashtra Fire Services,” Ranganathan added. The High Court structure was also audited in 2013 following a request made by the court. There are 457 licensing authorities registered with the Maharashtra Fire Services.
Fire officials have long maintained that inspecting all the structures in the city is almost impossible. “The brigade cannot undertake a fire audit for all the structures in the city. The owners of the buildings have to approach the fire department or the licensing agencies for the same,” said deputy chief fire officer S A Kale.