A technical investigation report of the Mumbai Fire Brigade into the cause of the fire that swept through two popular resto-pubs inside the Kamala Mills Compound last week has found the fire started at Mojo’s Bistro and not 1Above, as believed earlier. The report has also ruled out an electrical short-circuit and concluded that “flying embers” from a hookah started the fire at Mojo’s Bistro.
Earlier, the Mumbai Police had claimed they were in possession of a mobile phone clip showing the fire originated in 1Above and, within 52 seconds, gutting the resto-bar.
Investigators of the fire brigade examined at least seven different possibilities that could have started the fire that killed 14 people, including 11 women. These included sabotage, arson, chemical reaction, auto ignition, short-circuit, careless disposal of a lighted cigarette, naked flame (from fire stunts by bar tenders) and flying embers. After examining all possibilities, eyewitness accounts and videos of the incident, the investigators zeroed in on “flying embers” from a hookah as the cause of the fire.
“After examining and going through the statements of eyewitness, observation, inspection and compiling the circumstantial evidences of the incident, video-clippings and photos of the fire, we have come to the conclusion that the probable cause of fire was flying embers/burning coal from hookah that spread to the combustible cloth curtains in Mojo’s Bistro and rapidly spread to the unauthorised highly combustible thatched roof of 1Above. The police department can verify the photos and videos on which the report is based,” said Kailash Hiwrale, Mumbai Fire Brigade’s Chief Fire Officer (in-charge).
Findings of the technical report shows both establishments violated fire safety norms, risking the lives of patrons and staff. The report states: “As seen the video clips in possession of the investigators, a curtain at the southeast corner of Mojo’s Bistro caught fire, it then travelled rapidly to the other part of the curtain cloth as well as the ceiling cloth of the bamboo-framed shed. After reaching the north side of thatched roof of 1Above and the common wall, partition wall too caught fire.”
On January 2, The Indian Express had reported that a preliminary probe into the cause of the fire had ruled out an electrical short-circuit.
Mumbai’s fire safety rules bar rooftop establishments from performing fire stunts. Also, neither establishment had permission to serve hookah on the terrace/rooftop areas. At least 14 people died and 54 others injured in the fire.
While police have so far booked the owners of 1Above resto-pub for culpable homicide in the case, 1Above’s owners have all along been claiming the fire started in Mojo’s Bistro and had sought a CBI inquiry into the matter, calling the Mumbai Police investigation biased.
Yug Pathak, who is the son of senior IPS officer Kaushal Pathak, and Nagpur-based businessman Yug Tulli are the owners of Mojo’s Bistro. So far, owners of Mojo’s Bistro have been booked for town planning violations.
The fire brigade investigators spoke to 14 eyewitnesses, including victims, staff and security personnel of the premises during the investigation. Two of the eyewitnesses, Mala Kashyap and Disha Mehra, who were at Mojo’s Bistro, had confirmed the fire began at Mojo’s.
According to the fire brigade report, while Mojo’s Bostro failed to produce any permission or trade licence under the Mumbai Municipal Act for running an eatery, hookah parlour and liquor bar from a competent municipal authority, 1Above did produce a trade licence for an eating house under the Act.
However, it did not have necessary permission from the fire department for hookah parlour and liqour bar.
Hiwrale said, “It seems the fire was noticed by the customers of 1Above only when it reached the thatched roof above the restaurant. Many eyewitnesses even tweeted their account confirming the fire first started at Mojo’s and not 1Above.”
BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta, the inquiry officer of the Kamala Mills fire, said, “The final report of the fire brigade will form a major part in our report apart from investigation and eyewitness accounts and other evidences.
It is shocking yet alarming that flying embers/burning coals used in serving hookah caused the fire that killed 14
and injured 54.”