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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Pune: Fire breaks out at National Chemical Laboratory, no casualties reported

The NCL administration said that the fire was minor in nature. "The safety committee is carrying out an assessment and trying to ascertain the cause of the fire," said an official from the NCL.

By: Express News Service | Pune |
Updated: June 8, 2021 7:58:37 am
Pune: Fire breaks out at National Chemical Laboratory, no casualties reported The fire was brought under control by NCL staffers using extinguishing equipment available on campus along with firefighters from Pune fire brigade. (Photo:

A major incident of fire was averted at one of the laboratories on the CSIR – National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) campus on Monday as alert students reached the spot and managed to douse the fire within a few minutes. Personnel from Pune Fire Brigade later joined the fire fighting effort.

NCL officials said that prima facie, no major losses have been reported. The institute’s Safety Committee has initiated a probe into the matter and till Monday evening, were unable to establish the cause of the fire.

However, preliminary assessment found some partial damage to a concrete wall, a suction and a fume hood. But, the incident is being termed as a ‘minor’ one as the laboratory is large and the fire was restricted to a small corner inside the lab.

Students working at this particular lab, located on the eastern side of the NCL’s main building, were away for lunch at the time of the incident.

“A minor fire broke out soon after 1.50 pm on Monday at one of the laboratories under the Organic Chemistry Division located in the main building. There was nobody inside the lab at the time of the incident, as students were away for lunch. Meanwhile, some alert students present outside the building noticed the fire and rushed to the lab. They made use of the available fire extinguishing equipment and managed to bring the fire under control within 10 minutes. As per protocol, the Fire Brigade was alerted immediately,” an NCL official told The Indian Express on condition of anonymity.

Fire Brigade officials shared that highly inflammable organic solvents were present inside the laboratory where the fire broke out.

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Fire station officer Shivaji Memane said, “By the time we could reach, the people on NCL campus had started removing the organic solvent containers to safer places and were also using fire extinguishers available on the premises. We joined the effort and brought the fire under control within minutes. We helped them remove the solvent containers. Major damage was averted because the flammable solvents were promptly removed. We also conducted cooling of wooden furniture that had caught fire by spraying water to ensure that there were no secondary fires.”

Due to the ongoing pandemic, only a limited number of students are living on the NCL campus since October last year. In addition, only students pursuing doctoral studies in their advanced stages, who are required to perform laboratory-based experiments, are permitted to be at the labs, that too in small batches, in order to abide by Covid-19 protocols. Many senior scientists visit the laboratory or offices as per requirement and in adherence to these protocols.

“This lab was last operational and live experiments were performed during the morning session of June 4. Thereafter, the students of this lab attended the vaccination drive organised on the campus that day. The lab reopened on Monday, and only two students visited the lab during the morning hours, but they had not performed any chemical experiments till lunch time,” said the NCL officer.

Since the laboratory was not actively functioning on Monday, the committee has not been able to establish the exact cause of the fire. “The Safety Committee will complete the assessment within two days and prepare a detailed report on the incident,” said the officer.

As per the mandatory safety protocol, all laboratories at NCL undergo a fire safety audit once every quarter in a calendar year.

“The last audit undertaken by all the labs was in December 2020. Some labs could carry out the latest audit in April this year, which included the labs under the Organic Chemistry Division. However, some other labs were not able to take up audits in April due to the existing Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions in Pune,” said the NCL official.

The NCL has, in the past, witnessed several fire incidents. The last known major fire occurred in March 2017, when the 13-month old Modular Agile Intensified and Continuous (MAGIC) lab was gutted completely.

The lab has been defunct since then after incurring losses of over Rs 6 crore in the fire, as per the report submitted by the NCL investigation committee.

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