Four years since a major fire destroyed crucial documents and claimed five lives in the main building of the Mantralaya, several recommendations made by the fire department to prevent recurrence are on paper.
Despite the magnitude of the incident, the PWD admitted that annual fire audits have not been conducted, and cited construction work in the main building, which ended recently, as reason.
After the fire on June 21, 2012, and based on recommendations of the fire department, the PWD installed 4,402 sprinklers, 414 drenchers, nine water pumps for the fire-fighting apparatus and more than 35 hydrants on each floor of the main building as well as the courtyard. “We test the apparatus once every month and conduct mock drills once every six months. We also collect a fire compliance report for the annex building from the agency in-charge of installing the equipment in July and December every year,” said G P Shukla, deputy engineering officer of the PWD, adding that the equipment was last tested on June 5.
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Officials in the PWD stated they had started collecting bi-annual fire compliance reports for annexed building since last year but not for the main building.
“The construction work in the main building was recently completed. We are now in the process of finalising an agency which will carry out the audit in December this year. Till then, we cannot be completely sure how fire-safe the building is,” said an official from the PWD department, requesting anonymity.
The fire department report had recommended that 37 personnel deputed at the fire department for the Mantralaya and the New Administrative Building.
“So far, there is only one fire officer monitoring day-to-day fire activities, along with a couple of junior staff members. There are recurring complaints of shortage of staff,” said another PWD official.
Four years ago, on June 21, five people had died and 12 were injured, while around 5000 employees and visitors were rescued from the main building after the fire broke out on the fourth floor at 2:40 pm.