In the context of the recent fire in the upmarket Mont Blanc builidng at Kemp’s Corner, dna’s city editor S Balakrishnan interviewed Sunil Nesarikar, 49, deputy chief fire officer. Excerpts:
What is the primary reason for the increasing number fires in the city?
The main problem is that the awareness of fire safety issues is pathetically poor. This kind of a lax attitude towards fire safety does augur well for the city. People are only interested in keeping their lifts in working condition because they have to use it daily. But, when it comes to fire safety matters, they are indifferent because they have never been affected by a fire. This attitude must change. It is the mandatory duty of every housing society, landlord or occupants to submit fire audit reports to the nearest fire-brigade station twice a year. We have a list of over 300 agencies who are authorised to conduct the fire audit. We can take action against the society concerned if they fail to comply with this important requirement. I would also appeal to citizens to form groups of 25 and undergo the fire responder course conducted at all fire stations. It takes hardly two to three hours. But the benefits are enormous. We are also setting up a communication centre to disseminate information relating to fire safety.
In the case of the Mont Blanc inferno, it was shocking to know that two LPG cylinders were kept in the common passage. What does this show?
This shows that awareness among even high-society people is low. There is the outsourcing culture these days. There are servants for everything. But safety cannot be outsourced. People themselves should take charge and ensure that fire safety norms are followed strictly. The cylinders had no business in the passage. All societies should ensure that their electrical wires are properly ducted and sealed so that the spread of fire can be contained. Tall buildings should have sprinkler systems inside the flats also and not only in the common passage and lobby.
There should be a public address system. The old skyscrapers do not have refuge areas. But they should have mock drills regularly. All buildings should have fire extinguishers at least on alternate floors.
Many people have converted refuge areas into flats and offices. Why is your department not acting against them?
We will certainly act if the violation is brought to our notice. Our NOC is mandatory before the occupation certificate is issued by the building proposals department of the BMC.
But there are allegations that because of rampant corruption in the fire brigade, these NOCs can be purchased.
I don’t agree with this allegation. We are doing an honest job to the best of our ability.