Inquiry ordered, CAG had sounded alerts in 2015.

Inquiry ordered, CAG had sounded alerts in 2015.

The Army inquiry into the Central Ammunition Depot fire in Pulgaon will ascertain the cause of the fire and the extent of the damage caused. 

The destruction was restricted to only one shed in the depot.

“The cause of the fire has not yet been ascertained. Actions to assess the damage are in progress. An inquiry has been ordered by the Army,” DGMO Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said in Delhi. The probe team would include the Army's Ammunition Technical Officers and fire service specialists.

Army sources said preliminary indications suggest destruction of mines and not artillery shells. 

However, what triggered the fire in the first place in the dead of the night remains unclear. Spread over 7,000 acres, the Maharashtra CAD is Army's biggest storage for artillery and tank ordnance besides anti-tank mines. 

The ammunition manufactured in ordnance factories is  dispatched to Pulgaon, from where it is sent to the field ammunition depots.

Shortage of staffThe audit watchdog found shortage of firefighting staff and equipment in eight selected depots it audited. 

The Director General Ordnance Service (DGOS) in the Indian Army initiated action in November 2011 but could not finalise it till March 2013.

 The armed forces are now reviewing the design of the ammunition depot so that the minimum distance of one km between the storage sheds and living quarters can be reduced.

Worst fire tragedyThe Pulgaon accident is the Army's worst fire tragedy in which 16 people are confirmed dead while 17 more are battling for their lives in a hospital in Wardha.

While three persons died in an Army ammunition dump fire in 2007 in Khundru village, 75 km from Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, another fire in Bikaner ordnance depot in 2002 left two dead.

A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General last year, red-flagged the high risk of fire accidents in Army armament depots due to lack adequate fire protection measures. The scale of firefighting equipment and authorisation of adequate fire fighting staff was last revised by the government in March 2004.


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