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Urban Fires (Disaster Management)
This article deals with ‘Urban Fires (Disaster Management).’ This is part of our series on ‘Disaster Management’, an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.
- 1997: Uphaar Cinema hall fire in New Delhi in which 59 people were killed as the exits had been blocked by unauthorized seating.
- 2016: Fire destroyed Delhi’s National Museum of Natural History, causing damage to anthropological heritage and specimens in it.
- 2019: 17 people were killed in a fire at a five-storey hotel in Delhi.
- 2021: Mumbai Dreams Mall Fire incident in which 10 people were killed.
Causes of Urban Fires
- Urban Issues: India’s urban areas often experience high population densities and rapid commercialization. It puts a strain on infrastructure and increases the risk of fires.
- Violation of Building Norms: The National Building Code in India provides guidelines for constructing buildings with adequate fire safety measures. However, these provisions are often violated due to weak administrative machinery and corruption. For example, The devastating fire at the AMRI Hospital in Kolkata in 2011, which resulted in the loss of many lives, was attributed to violations of building norms and a lack of adequate fire safety infrastructure.
- Carelessness: Short circuits or faulty electrical appliances can trigger fires without proper precautions. For instance, in 2019, a fire broke out in a residential building in Delhi’s Karol Bagh area due to a short circuit.
- Problem with Fire Control Department: Shortages of fire stations, firefighting equipment, and trained personnel hinder effective fire control and response. Lack of resources and infrastructure was evident in the 2020 Bagree Market fire in Kolkata, where the blaze raged for over 60 hours due to the inadequate availability of firefighting resources.
- Challenges in Slums or Illegal Settlements: Construction using inflammable materials, narrow lanes inhibiting the movement of fire control vehicles, and unsafe wiring are common issues in such areas. A notable incident occurred in 2015 when a fire broke out in a slum cluster in Mumbai’s Kalbadevi area.
Ways to Manage Urban Fires
Before the Disaster
- Preparedness Planning: Authorities and communities should develop comprehensive fire emergency plans, including risk assessments, evacuation strategies etc.
- Risk Mitigation: Proactive measures should be taken to reduce the risk of urban fires by implementing building codes and regulations, conducting inspections, promoting fire safety education etc.
- Early Warning Systems: Sophisticated fire detection systems and public alert mechanisms should be installed to provide timely warnings to residents.
- Infrastructure and Resource Development: Adequate infrastructure, including fire stations, hydrants, and firefighting equipment, should be strategically placed to ensure quick response times.
During the Disaster
- Emergency Response: Fire departments and emergency services should respond promptly to the fire incident.
- Evacuation and Sheltering: Evacuation plans are activated, and residents are guided to designated safe areas.
After the Disaster
- Damage Assessment: Experts should assess the extent of the fire’s impact, including structural damage, infrastructure loss, and environmental hazards.
- Lessons Learned and Training: Post-disaster evaluations should be conducted to identify areas for improvement in preparedness and response.
- Build Back Better: The building that suffered such an incident should be constructed so that it is less vulnerable to fire.