Vigilance for fire prevention

Fires, big and small, break out in Kolkata and its suburbs frequently. In most cases it is found after inquiry that inflammable materials were stored without adequate measures for preventing accidental fire or these were stored totally illegally. The authorities, the police and the fire brigade, were blissfully unaware of illegal storing of inflammable materials because vigilance was slack. Last Wednesday’s devastating fire at a chemical factory at Taratala, the southern suburb of Kolkata was caused because of accidental entry of water into the factory where as much as eighteen tons of aluminium dust and six tonnes of other chemicals were stored, ostensibly for making firecrackers for use in the coming Diwali festival. It is not known whether the chemical factory had the licence for making crackers.
In several big fires in the city proper during the past few years it was found that either adequate fire-fighting equipment was not kept in the multi-storeyed buildings or there were no fast escape routes in case of fire breaking out. The tragedy at a big private hospital in South Kolkata a few years ago in which many patients were suffocated to death is still fresh in memory. Another fire at a multi-storeyed building on Park Street, brought to light the shocking fact that a special ladder purchased at a huge cost to reach top floors of such a building in order to rescue people in case of fire, had to be driven from a long distance and pressed into service belatedly.
Live electric wires making huge balls and dangling loosely is a common sight in old buildings of Kolkata. They are the cause of accidental fire caused by short circuits. In most such cases it was found that no one kept vigilance and taken timely steps to prevent fire and endangering human lives. In each such case, lack of proper vigilance on the part of those whose duty it is to oversee laxity in measures for fire control was established. But no punitive action against either the officials who were responsible for maintaining vigilance was known to have been taken. If exemplary actions – heavy fines or jail terms – were imposed on the guilty, things might be expected to improve. But nothing happened. In the case of the recent Taratala fire, fire brigade personnel were seen to be running away from the blazing flames coming out of the factory. The Chief Minister is known for going into details of the workings of different government departments. After so many incidents of fire, it is time she went into finding out why such fires are breaking out regularly, endangering human lives.

Monday, 16 October, 2017