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Maharashtra Night fire: Probe indicts Wizcraft, blames short circuit

Published On : 25 Feb 2016

Mumbai (The Hindu): It also found that LPG cylinders were used even though the fire NOC prohibited their use

The fire that engulfed the stage of the much-publicised Maharashtra Night cultural event on February 14 was probably caused by a short circuit and aggravated by prohibited combustible material kept under the stage. This points to negligence on the part the event organiser Wizcraft International Pvt Ltd, the Mumbai Fire Brigade’s (MFB) probe into the incident has concluded.

The report, released by the BMC on Wednesday, does not provide a definitive conclusion, keeping the “supposed cause open for any changes in future” in probes by the police and the forensics department.

“The likely cause of fire is concluded as ‘defective electric circuit’ (spark from the electric wirings came in contact with the combustible materials underneath the stage) contributed to by the negligence of the organisers/event management company by storing highly combustible material below the stage,” said the 142-page report submitted by Chief Fire Officer PS Rahangdale and Assistant Divisional Fire Officer KF D’Souza.

“The electrical cables, wires, installations were laid down in a tray from around/nearby the stage in a haphazard manner. The fuse installed at Tower 6 was found blown after the fire. Therefore, there is every possibility that the electrical spark from the electrical wirings came in contact with combustible materials underneath the stage,” it said.

The probe found that LPG cylinders were used even though the fire NOC prohibited their use. One exploded LPG cylinder, one damaged and ruptured cylinder, and five more filled cylinders were found at the spot. The organisers intended to create an image of Lord Ganesha using flames. Plus, 15 fully charged carbon dioxide gas cylinders (compressed) were found near the stage.

Notably, the report includes a letter the divisional fire officer had sent on the eve of the event to the Mumbai Police Commissioner, listing six violations of fire norms and seeking their compliance based on a spot inspection. They included prohibiting the proposed use of firecrackers, directing the organisers to treat the material for erecting the stage with fire retardant paint, to remove combustible material stored under the stage, to remove paints and adhesive from the storage room, shift 10 gas cylinders kept near the stage to a safe location, and to replace outdated fire extinguishers.

The presence of a large stock of combustible material used in the construction of the stage as well as combustible decorative material, chiefly contributed to the fire. Items such as curtains, wooden planks, plywood sheets, acrylic sheets, fire-reinforced plastic, carpets, plastic/cardboard, large size flex, sound system, speakers, amplifiers, LCD screens, aluminium trusses, cloth, pyrotechnic installation, paint cans, inflammable adhesive material, LCD screens, wires, ropes and spilled hydraulic oil from cranes were present at the site.

“From the statement of witnesses and cross examination of fire officers, we found that the combustible material and LPG were the main contributors to the fire,” Mr Rahangdale told The Hindu . On the lack of compliance with its letter on the eve of the event, he said “last-minute inspection was not possible” and the organisers had met some guidelines on the morning of February 14.

The fire department recorded the statements of eye witnesses, fire officers present on the site and conducted spot inspection to study the cause of the fire. Fire fighting operations started at 8.30 pm and the fire was extinguished at 11.24 pm. The report said that vanity vans stationed near the stage caused a hindrance in fire fighting operations. Fire officers also rescued half a dozen horses. The department listed a set of recommendations which included prohibiting use of fireworks unless by trained and authorised personnel, use of LPG cylinders near the stage and only after specific permissions and applying for NOC directly to the Chief Fire Officer for an event of 5,000 or more attendees.

Photo credit: The Hindu

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