Pune Fashion Street Fire: Was it waiting to happen?
A major fire broke out at Pune's Fashion Street market on Friday. While 2018 a fire audit stated that the market is not fire-safe, in 2019 the market was declared illegal.
Pune: Late Friday night a massive fire broke out at Pune's Fashion Street area in Camp. One of the major shopping attractions in the city saw a huge blaze and has 16 fire tenders reach the spot to douse the fire. The fire broke out around 11 pm on Friday.
According to reports, 850 stalls in the market were destroyed due to the fire. There are over 500 legal small shops situated inside the market while over 300 small stalls were set up too. Officials told TBC that the fire was doused by 1:10 am on early Saturday morning.
January 2018: PCB – Fashion street not safe if any fire incident takes place
Mumbai’s Kamala Mills fire in December 2017 was a wake-up call for Pune Cantonment Board (PCB) administration, which sprung into action about the area’s fire safety measures. In January 2018, said PCB President Brig Rajiv Sethi said, “I have recently surveyed Fashion Street and found out that it is very congested. Shops are located very close to each other. The area has a heavy footfall, with even foreigners visiting. The street has no emergency exit and no fire safety.”
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According to the records and earlier verification carried out by the revenue staff of PCB, the area near Pune’s famous MG Road was not safe in case of any fire. It was also noted that in case of a fire it would be difficult for a fire vehicle or an ambulance to reach the spot, owing to narrow and congested roads.
Sethi further said, “The fire department must immediately survey the area and find out violators who do not fit the norms of fire safety in the area. A legal notice should be sent to them and a report based on the inspection must be submitted... to PCB authorities,” Sethi said.
February 2018: Fire audit report - A risky place for fire incidents
The joint fire audit report submitted by the Chief Fire Officer, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the Fire Brigade Superintendent of PCB was discussed at the special board meeting held on February 5, 2018. It was chaired by Brig Rajiv Sethi, President, PCB, and Dr DN Yadav, Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
According to reports, Yadav said, “During the meeting, it was discussed in detail regarding the hazardous situation of Fashion Street, which may cause any fatal incidence. The board found that keeping in view the recent fire incidences that happened in different cities of the country, it was required to do a Fire Safety Assessment or audit.”
The report noted that shopkeepers used plastic curtains as partitions, which are hazardous in the event of a fire, and the narrow gangways make it difficult to move. There are stalls outside the market serving as cafeterias or hotels and used fuels like LPG and kerosene.
June 2019: Illegal shops increased by 20 per cent
Following the 2018 Fire Audit, Fashion Street occupants waited on the action. In 2019, however, a year after the fire audit, Fashion Street Hawkers Association Secretary In-charge Mazar Qureshi said, “There are 448 legal stalls since 1997. In the last 5-6 years, 121 stalls have been legalised by the Cantonment. Earlier, there were 50-60 illegal stall holders. Now, the number has gone up by 20 per cent in the last year.”
He added, “The Cantonment had assured that the illegal stallholders will be removed and legal stall holders will get the fire safety facility. It has been over a year now. Only fire audit has been done following an order issued by then CEO DN Yadav. No action has been taken, yet.”
While shop owners in the market put the onus on PCB and the-then Corporator Atul Gaikwad, Gaikwad explained the delay in action due to non-consistent top-brass. PCB Vice President and ward member Vivek Yadav said, “In a board meeting last year, it was decided that a commercial establishment will be constructed... Now, in the next board meeting, this point will be put up and discussed.”
July 2019: Fashion Street declared illegal by Cantt Board
A resolution was finally passed in PCB’s General Body Meeting on July 10, 2019, to declare Fashion Street illegal. PBC VP Yadav, said, “We should declare the entire Fashion Street as an illegal market and remove the illegal stalls from there.”
According to reports, Yadav also revealed PCB’s plan to make a commercial complex where only authorised sellers will operate on the ground floor and shops on other floors can be given to other commercial brands. PCB is expecting this project to bring them a revenue of approximately Rs 2 crore every month, Yadav said.
March 2021: Massive fire burned Fashion Street to ashes
Because the area is congested, the fire was spread within no time and it made arduous for fire officials to reach the market area. According to reports, 850 stalls in the market were destroyed completely amid the major fire. There are over 500 legal small shops situated inside the market while over 300 small stalls are set up too.
As per the fire department, around 16 fire tenders and two water tankers were utilised to douse the fire which broke out on Friday night.