It was extinguished in 20 minutes; no one injured

Less than a year after a devastating blaze gutted three floors of Mantralaya or the Maharashtra State Secretariat, a small fire broke out on the fourth floor of the west wing of the main building on Saturday around noon which was extinguished within 20 minutes.

No one was injured, said chief fire officer M.V. Deshmukh.

This time the first call was made by K. Shivaji, Principal Secretary, Finance, who was working on the third floor. Mr. Shivaji said, “I smell something burning and went up to check. I called the chief fire officer and alerted everyone. . Within half an hour everything was under control. The workers and staff were immediately evacuated.”

The fire was restricted to 80 sq metres, said Maharashtra Chief Secretary J.S. Banthia. Mr. Banthia got a call at 12.09 p.m. from Mr. Shivaji and later Minister of State Fouzia Khan. . Ms. Khan said it was a minor incident.

Mr. Deshmukh told The Hindu the fire broke out while the workers, who were carrying out retrofitting work on the fourth floor , sprayed a polymer to strengthen the concrete. The polymer probably caught fire due to a spark from a fan or a loose wire. There was a momentary flash and a fire but it was extinguished in 20 minutes, by 12.33 p.m.. There was nothing combustible in the area fortunately, Mr. Deshmukh added.

After the last fire on June 21, which killed five persons, there are fire engines stationed in the precincts and they responded quickly. The water hydrants were working and the workers themselves used a dry chemical powder to douse the flames.

Mr. Banthia said he arrived there by 12.17 p.m. and saw that the fire was in a restricted area. In Mantralaya, there were 409 government employees and 476 workers, he said.

Today being a second Saturday, is a holiday though a small number was present to work on the budget session. Even the Navy called to find out if any assistance was required, he said.

As an abundant precaution staff were asked to go to the nearby MLA’s hostel but after an all clear was given by the fire and other departments, office work resumed by 1 p.m.

More repair work left

He said the repairs of the floors which were burnt last year were at an advanced state and was being supervised by a team from the Indian Institute of Technology. Repair work on the fifth, sixth and seventh floors was almost complete and it was the fourth floor which had about ten per cent work left. The makeover of the seven-storied building will take eight months, Mr. Banthia said adding that this small fire would not be a setback.

Home minister R.R. Patil too inspected the area and said that it was a very small one, and could not be compared to last year’s conflagration.