Mumbai

Hookah embers likely cause of Kamala Mills fire

The gutted Kamala Mills premises where a massive fire broke out at a pub on December 29, killing 14 people. File Photo  

The Mumbai Fire Brigade on Friday released its investigation report into the Kamala Mills fire, which identifies the probable cause as the coal used in a hookah in Mojo’s Bistro.

“The probable cause of the fire is … burning/lighted flying embers from the lighted charcoal sigree came in contact with the combustible material used for curtain in Mojo’s Bistro and spread very rapidly to the unauthorised and highly combustible thatched roof of 1Above, where no permission was issued,” the 15-page report said.

There were several theories regarding the cause of the fire, chief among them being the presence of hookah in the restaurants. The report relied on the testimonies of 17 eyewitnesses, which included staff of both restaurants, those injured in the blaze, and the patrons who escaped.

The report also relied on posts, pictures and videos put up on Facebook and Twitter by those present at the restaurant. Fire spread rapidly due to a large stock of combustible materials: bamboos, plywood sheets, cotton and nylon cloth, plastic and tarpaulin sheets, draught beer kegs, and hookah and related materials. The bamboo frame shed above Mojo’s Bistro had fallen onto the roof of 1Above.

The report said Mojo’s Bistro had failed to produce any permissions/trade licences from the competent municipal authority. While 1Above did have permissions to serve food, it did not have certification from the Chief Fire Officer for a hookah parlour and liquor bar, and it did not have permission to serve food on the terrace.

When the fire broke out, not a single management/security/staff personnel from Mojo’s Bistro or 1Above raised an alarm to intimate the Fire Brigade. The intimation was received from the security guard, causing delay.

The passage to the east of the fire exit was used to store beer kegs, which were also on fire when the first fighters arrived at the scene. The fixed fire system of the building was not working, and encroachments on fire escape balconies on all floors blocked the route towards the staircases.

Videos showed the source of the fire as the curtain at the southeast corner of Mojo’s Bistro. The fire travelled rapidly to the north side and to the ceiling cloth of the bamboo framed shed.

After reaching north of the thatched roof of 1Above, the common partition wall caught fire. Customers of 1Above noticed the fire only once it reached the roof of the restaurant. Wind and the continuous nature of the structures led to the entire place being gutted.

The report says there were 200-300 customers in the restaurants at the time, and they only knew of the lifts as an exit route.

The falling debris forced people to take shelter in the toilets. The report also says that the fact that one of the security personnel of 1Above was among the deceased shows that even the staff was unaware of emergency exits.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 1:43:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/hookah-embers-likely-cause-of-kamala-mills-fire/article22379544.ece

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