The fire reported at the CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) on June 7 could have been triggered by an overheated electrical instrument inside the fume hood at the laboratory in the Organic Chemistry division, according to NCL officials.
There were no casualties in the incident, which occurred at a laboratory inside the institute’s main building. The fire had occurred around lunch hours and no student was present at the time of the fire.
But alert students on the campus had spotted the flames and within minutes, were instrumental in dousing the fire along with help from the Fire Brigade, which had rushed to the spot. The Fire Brigade had also relocated several organic solvents from the site.
The NCL’s lab safety committee conducted an inquiry into the incident and the findings, shared with The Indian Express, stated, “There were no unattended reactions ongoing inside the concerned fume hood. It is most likely that overheating of the electrical equipment (hotplate stirrer) in the fume hood and the presence of bottled solvent near the site may have caused the fire.”
NCL officials further shared that a fume hood, a vacuum pump and two hotplate stirrers, worth Rs 3 lakh in total, were damaged in the fire.
Since the institute is not operating at its full capacity and has limited students on campus due to Covid-19 restrictions, the NCL administration has decided to conduct fire-fighting training for all its students and employees once lockdown norms are eased in the city.
When asked about other safety measures the institute will take, in the wake of last week’s fire incident, NCL officials said, “More larger-capacity fire extinguishers are being procured. Along with regular safety audits, more frequent safety checks will be carried out in the laboratory.”