Fire safety rules only on paper

Fire safety rules only on paper

After the Devarachikkanahalli incident, BBMP has declared the fixing of grills on balconies illegal

An accidental fire broke out in an apartment in Devarachikkanahalli claiming the lives of at least two persons. Credit: DH File Photo

Authorities have not learnt from the Carlton Towers fire tragedy in Bengaluru which claimed nine lives and left 70 injured eleven years ago and have miserably failed to take any preventive steps, leading to recurrence of similar incidents, though thankfully, not of the same magnitude. Recently, an 82-year-old woman and her 59-year-old daughter were burnt alive when their apartment in Devarachikkanahalli caught fire. This was followed by another incident where at least two people were killed in a blast at the godown of a transport company in the New Tharagupet area, where crackers were stored unsafely.

Last year, a major fire had broken out at a chemical factory in Bapujinagar gutting a few neighbouring houses, though fortunately, there were no causalities. While a question arises on how the authorities permit storage of hazardous material in crowded areas, a common factor among most such incidents are the narrow roads that delay the arrival of fire tenders. Though the floor area ratio of the building is fixed based on the width of the road, this is observed more in breach with high-rises permitted even on narrow thoroughfares. 

Also read: Fire in Bengaluru apartment kills two; others suspected trapped

After the Devarachikkanahalli incident, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has declared the fixing of grills on balconies illegal. Apparently, the two women could not be saved as fire service personnel had difficulty in gaining access to the flat as the balcony was fixed with grills.

While the order is impractical and not implementable, BBMP has swept the real issue under the carpet. The civic body is a den of corruption and the government should order an independent probe into how a majority of buildings openly flout by-laws and yet manage to obtain occupancy certificates. An archaic law that makes fire audit mandatory only for high-rises, allows builders of smaller residential apartments to get away with murder. The situation is even worse in the case of commercial buildings which have a heavy footfall, with both the BBMP and fire services turning a blind eye to pubs and bars that operate illegally from terraces. 

Thus, there is an urgent need to conduct a safety audit of all commercial complexes and residential apartment blocks, however big or small, and take corrective measures. But first, the government should act against corrupt officers who are hand-in-glove with builders as the failure to initiate any punitive action over the years has only emboldened them, further contributing to the decay of the city and putting its citizens at grave risk. Bengaluru is literally sitting on a time bomb and unless the government acts fast, a catastrophe cannot be avoided.

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