Written by Sanjana Bhalerao
A PROBE into the fire at Sargam Housing Society in Tilak Nagar last month shows that a joint refuge between Wing B and Wing C was encroached upon with a brick wall and terrace garden. The fire killed five citizens and left two injured.
The investigation report of the Mumbai Fire Brigade stated that according to guidelines, refuge areas were not allowed to be used for any other purpose. It was the responsibility of the owner or the occupier of each building to maintain refuge areas as clean and free of encumbrances and encroachments at all times.
The report has also found that the mandatory open space around the building for movement of vehicles was obstructed due to parked vehicles.
The cause of the fire on December 28, according to the report, was stated to be a “defective electrical circuit”. Sparks from decorative lights on a Christmas tree came in contact with combustible material.
“The sudden flames were due to an LPG cylinder. The resulting explosion and flare from the flames were the cause of death,” stated the report.
A day after the fire, residents had complained that the builder had sold parking slots on an area that was meant to be kept open. The haphazard parking obstructed the movement of the fire engines, further delaying the response time.
The fire brigade report also confirmed the residents’ claim that the 15-storey building did not have an occupation certificate (OC), no-objection certificate (NOC) and functional firefighting equipment. The fire brigade has also called for the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) to act against the developer for allegedly violating fire safety norms, filing an appeal on January 2.
The report concluded that the water and electricity of the building will remain disconnected till the developer complied with the fire safety norms.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 6) Shahaji Umap said the police have found that an April 2013 agreement showed that the builder sold the 15th floor refuge area, measuring 665 sq ft, as an open terrace for over Rs 18 lakh to the owner of the flat on the same floor.
“This shows negligence on part of the builder,” said Umap , adding that the flat owner told police that he was unaware that it was a refuge area. “We are checking if the tenant was aware,” further said the DCP.
Police had registered an FIR against the builders on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and endangering personal safety of others under the Indian Penal Code. While no arrest has been made in the case, a police officer said they were gathering further evidence before they arrested the builders.