Residents of Zia Apartments in Nagpada where a fire broke out in the basement area on Friday afternoon have alleged that the mishap occurred because of the negligence of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials. In 2013, the residents had written to the Mumbai Fire Brigade, and BMC ward officials about illegal commercial activities in the building’s basement.
There are three godowns in the basement, including one for mobile accessories. One was a zari cloth godown and another one was a chemical godown. “As soon as the cooling operation is complete, we will start our investigation to find out where the fire started and what was the cause. The fire must have spread quickly as material in the godown were clothes, mobile accessories and even chemicals,” said a senior fire official at the spot.
In March 2013, residents had informed the Mumbai Fire Brigade through a letter about the three “illegal” godowns in the basement of buildings in the A wing, the same area where the fire broke out on Friday.
Following the complaint, fire brigade officials had inspected the premises on March 13, 2013. They had submitted a report to the then assistant engineer of the building and factory department, senior inspector of the licence department of BMC’s E ward (Nagpada) and suggested to inspect the premises and take appropriate action.
The 2013 inspection report of the fire brigade had mentioned that carrying out trade activity in the basement area is highly objectionable from the fire risk and life safety point of view.
“The owners/occupiers of the three godowns failed to produce relevant documents from the municipal authority or by the chief fire officer during the inspection. It was found that at one time, 40 workers were working in the zari and cotton cloth godown. We had suggested immediate inspection and action against the occupiers,” said a senior fire official.
Rizwan Khan, a resident of Zia Apartments, said: “Despite the inspection report, no action was taken by either the building and factory department or the licence department of E ward. We were lucky that not a single life was lost and people were evacuated unhurt. With a Level III fire, it could have taken many lives. The BMC is responsible for this.” Sahebrao Gaikwad, the Assistant Commissioner, E ward, was unavailable for comment.
BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta told The Indian Express that the matter would be investigated. “Owners and occupants need to ensure that they follow fire safety norms. It is for their own safety. Majority violate fire safety norms and later blame civic officials,” he said.