Bengaluru

Older areas of Bengaluru are still vulnerable to fire accidents

The inside of Kailash Bar and Restaurant, which was gutted in a fire, at Kalasipalya, on Monday. Sudhakara Jain Sudhakara Jain

The inside of Kailash Bar and Restaurant, which was gutted in a fire, at Kalasipalya, on Monday. Sudhakara Jain Sudhakara Jain  

‘NOC from Fire Department must for fire-prone establishments, even if they occupy a small space’

In the wake of the fire at Kamala Mills in Mumbai that killed 14 people at a roof-top bar, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike had its eyes on the skies as it went after roof-top bars and restaurants here. However, tinderboxes closer to the ground were ignored.

In congested lanes, with buildings a few inches from each other, and with little fire fighting equipment inside, much of the older parts of the city remain susceptible to fires.

Mayor Sampath Raj added that the buildings are also expected to have CCTVs as per law, “We have instructed our officials to cancel trade licenses of bars functioning without adequate permissions or safety norms,” he said.

However, Uday Vijayan, of Beyond Carlton, an organisation promoting fire safety, says that this reactive, knee-jerk reactions will not last. “After a round of random fire safety inspections, it will die down till the next fire accident occurs.It is a problem with the Indian psyche that we sit up and take note only when tragedy strikes,” he said.

Who is to check it?

However, fundamentally, the system allows for smaller shops and buildings to get away with fire violations.

Currently, a No Objection Certificate from the Fire and Emergency Services Department is needed only for buildings above 15m in height, roughly four floors.

For the rest, as is the case with most buildings in the older market areas of the city, there is often no overseeing body.

“We need to move from this regime of fire safety audit for buildings to fire safety audits for establishments. Any licensing authority, like Excise Department or the local civic body, must insist on a NOC from us, before granting trade licence,” said K.U. Ramesh, Director, Fire and Emergency Services.

Owing to a lack of teeth for the department, they can only play a recommendatory role in asking for the closure of establishments that flout fire safety norms.

“We cannot ask any establishment to shut shop for lack of fire safety measures. We only have a recommendatory rule. The only way we acquire teeth is when licensing authorities insist on fire safety audit and NOC, which they never do,” said B.K. Hampagol, a retired senior fire official.

He said that an NOC from the Fire and Emergency Services Department should be made mandatory for establishments that are fire-prone, even if they occupy a small space.

“A fire safety audit must be mandatory for any store that stores paint, rubber, cotton, tyres, spirits and paper,” he said.

BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad said that the civic body was ready to incorporate any recommendations that Fire and Emergency Services Department will make in the matter, including insisting on a fire safety audit and NOC for trade licences.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 3:00:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/older-areas-of-bengaluru-are-still-vulnerable-to-fire-accidents/article22402214.ece

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