To enhance the skill of its firefighters in tackling fires in skyscrapers, the Mumbai Fire Brigade will set up a drill tower-cum-multi activity simulator, which will simulate conditions witnessed during a blaze in a high-rise. The fire brigade has proposed to install this simulator at the fire station in Thakur Village, Kandivali. Officials said the BMC will make budget provisions for the simulator in the estimates for the financial year 2019-20.
“The purpose of this multi-activity simulator is to increase the physical strength of firefighters, considering the challenges faced in high-rises. The drill tower will have facilities, including hot fire training, vertical rescue, confined search and rescue and rope rescue training, among others. Things have changed as many high rise buildings have come up in the city in place of old chawls. Top floors and basements of buildings are the most difficult areas faced by firefighters,” a fire brigade official said.
The official added that as technology and lifestyle have changed, there is a need to upgrade the fire brigade. “Keeping in mind new challenges, we are also considering sending our firefighters abroad for training,” he said.
When contacted, Chief Fire Officer P S Rahangdale said, “This will be first-of-its-kind drill tower simulator in India. Countries like Singapore and the US that have established firefighting systems use such simulators. Inside the simulator, we will create a virtual atmosphere where confined search and rescue operations will be conducted in high-rises, buildings and underground tunnels. A control panel will monitor the operation. With such training, the response and efficiency of fighters will be enhanced.”
According to figures provided by the fire brigade, in the last one month, 18 big fires were reported in the city, claiming 20 lives and injuring 267 people. More than 20 firefighters had also sustained injuries. “A few of these were very small fires, but our firemen sustained injuries. This shows we need to upgrade our training systems,” said an official.
Last week, after multiple fires in the city, the BMC standing committee had raised questions over the fire brigade’s functioning and efficiency. Corporators had also demanded a white paper on the fire brigade department.
A report prepared by the fire brigade in 2018 had found that from January to December, the department had inspected 4,436 hotels and eateries, of which 2,264 were found violating fire safety norms. While these establishments were issued notices, prosecution was launched against only two establishments under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006.