The fire that broke out at Beaumonde Towers in Prabhadevi on Wednesday has raised questions about adequacy of firefighting equipment available with the Mumbai Fire Brigade.
Legislators and residents have both claimed that the blaze has brought to the fore the manner in which permission and fire No Objection Certificate (NOC) were granted to allow construction of skyscrapers without checking if firefighting equipment could reach such heights.
“The fire brigade team’s inability to reach the 33rd floor of Beaumonde, tower B, has raised questions about the BMC’s and Mumbai Fire Brigade’s nod to allow construction of highrises without checking if firefighting equipment can reach the topmost floor. Luckily, no casualty was reported after the fire engulfed a few floors of the building,” said Mangala Karnik, a resident of Prabhadevi and a social activist.
Shiv Sena MLA Sada Sarvankar said: “I fail to understand how did the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and the Mumbai Fire Brigade gave permission to build such highrises when they lack ladders or snorkels to reach the top floors.”
A former fire brigade official who did not wish to be named said the inability to reach the top floors of the skyscraper was because of lack of proper equipment.
“Mumbai Fire Brigade ladders can only reach a height of 90 metres,” he said. “There are plans to use firefighting robots. But it is yet to be finalised. There is a tower in Tardeo that is 254 metres high and has 61 storeys. One can imagine what would happen if a fire were to break out there,” the former fire official added.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Level-III (major) fire broke out at the residential complex at Appasaheb Marathe Marg in Prabhadevi. Over 90 people were rescued from the building and it took almost five hours for firefighters to control the blaze. No casualty was reported but two firemen complained of suffocation.
Beaumonde Towers has three towers, each of them is a ground-plus-33 floor structure. The fire broke out on the 32nd and 33rd floor of Tower B. As a precaution, residents of Tower A and C were evacuated as well. Actor Deepika Padukone owns a property on the 26th floor of Tower B.
The Chief Fire Officer, Mumbai Fire Brigade, Prabhat Rahangdale, said: “There is no connection between what kind of ladder and fire fighting equipment we have. Fire fighting majorly depends on the internal fire fighting system present in an highrise.” He added: “Fire fighting on vertical structures is always challenging and it is effective if conducted within the building. It was a massive fire and on a height. But a fully-operational internal fire fighting system at Beaumonde helped tremendously to contain the blaze from spreading to the other floors. All highrises should not only install fire fighting equipment but also maintain them.”
The Mumbai Fire Brigade put out the blaze by 9.50 pm on Wednesday but the cooling operation continued till early on Thursday.
Residents and tenants were not allowed to go inside the towers on Thursday, as electric supply that had been disconnected during the fire fighting operations is yet to be restored.
“They used too much water to put out the fire. It flooded the staircase and the elevator shaft. People would not be allowed inside till it is certain that it is safe and there is no danger of short circuit. We are looking for an alternative accommodation,” said Caroline Schauder, a third-year student at Georgetown University in Washington DC, who had been staying on the eight floor in Tower B. Schauder is part of a group of students on an immersive visit to Mumbai for research.