Despite notice from fire dept, HAL went for Aero India

Despite notice from fire dept, HAL went for Aero India

kicker: Smoke rises from the public parking lot after cars caught fire on the fourth day of the five-day Aero India 2019 Airshow at the Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bangalore on February 23, 2019. - The Aero India 2019 airshow starts on February 20 and

Aero India organiser Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) did not have clearance from the fire and emergency department to host the event. Apparently, HAL even sued the fire and emergency department for parking fire tenders inside the premises during the five-day event.

On February 23, during the Aero India show, 277 vehicles were gutted in a massive fire at the parking lot of the Yelahanka air base. Ministry of Defence and Indian Air Force conducting the inquriy into the mishap said an overheated silencer of one of the cars could have led to the fire.

A senior officer from the fire and emergency services told DH that HAL had not taken a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the department. “As is the norm, organisers approach the fire department seeking NOCs. We visited the venue a couple of times, checked the fire safety norms, and instructed them to follow safety norms. They said once the installation of temporary structures are completed, they will install fire safety measures. We even visited the venue on the night of February 19 and conducted a check. But, precautionary measures were not taken on fire safety,” he said.

According to the fire official, after inspecting the premises, the department issued a notice stating that no fire safety measures were taken and the event cannot be held. But still, HAL went ahead with the event, causing a major fire accident. HAL did not have fire NOCs during Aero India shows in the previous years, he added.

The fire department had 37 fire tenders lined up for the airshow. “Indian Air Force officials did not allow fire tenders to enter the Yelahanka air base. They forced us to park the fire tenders outside the compound. They said they have their own vehicles in case of an emergency and they will manage. We still parked two fire tenders at gate no. 5. Soon after the vehicles caught fire, within minutes those vehicles rushed to the spot. Even the investigation into the fire incident is done by defence officials,” the official said. 

Replying to the allegations, Gopal Sutar, spokesperson, HAL, said as far as the role of HAL is concerned, the land belongs to the Indian Air Force and fire services was the responsibility of the state fire department. “HAL provided assistance and requisite support as it has done in other areas related to Aero India 2019. HAL cannot comment on notices issued, etc.” he said. Indian Air Force officials, meanwhile, were unavailable for comment. 

A senior police officer said traffic police were not allowed inside the air base to man traffic or to monitor parking of vehicles. “Indian Air Force officials treated us in a discriminatory manner. Police personnel manning traffic near the gate were pushed outside. There was no cooperation from the defence officials at the venue,” the police officer said.