Fire station in VIP area has only one fire engine,no snorkel,water tanker

The fire brigade’s first responders arrived at the spot 16 minutes after receiving the distress call.

Written by Alison Saldanha | Mumbai | Updated: January 10, 2014 1:03 pm

The nearest fire station to the 26-storey Mont Blanc building at Kemps Corner,where a major fire broke out Friday killing seven persons,including film financier Dinesh Gandhi,and injuring seven more,caters to VIP areas like Raj Bhawan,Malabar Hill and Napean Sea Road. Yet,it can accommodate only one fire engine.

A century-old structure,the Gowalia Tank fire station has been listed as a Grade-III heritage site by the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee. It does not have a single snorkel or water tanker.

On Friday night,citing traffic problems,the fire brigade’s first responders arrived at the spot 16 minutes after receiving the distress call.

About two years ago,the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) undertook construction of a new fire station in an adjoining plot of 20,000 square feet,which is yet to be handed over to the Mumbai Fire Brigade.

“We expect the work on the building to be completed by early 2014,after which the Mumbai Fire Brigade can move into the structure. In the interim,there may not be a need for augmentation since the Byculla fire station and the other stations lend adequate support. Our main focus is to increase the fire stations in the suburbs as that is where the city is currently facing a major lacuna,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar,in-charge of the Mumbai Fire Brigade.

“The fire took place during peak-hour traffic,hence our response was considerably delayed. Even if we augmented the equipment available at Gowalia Tank fire station,traffic issues would still restrict our first response,” said Mhaiskar.

The new fire station is expected to accommodate three fire engines of varying capacities,including hydraulic platforms. “Considering the strategic location of this fire station,the fire brigade is likely to equip it with hydraulic platforms of higher capacities along with fire engines and water tankers,” said a senior fire official on condition of anonymity.

Currently,Mumbai has 33 fire stations — 15 in the city,12 in the western suburbs and six in the eastern suburbs. While the international response time for fires is reported to be four minutes,it is 8-10 minutes in the city area and 15-18 minutes in the suburbs.

While a proposal for acquiring a snorkel for the Gowalia Tank fire station,with a capacity to go up to 90 feet for fighting fires in highrises,was floated close to two years ago,the tender has been stuck due to bureaucratic delays.

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