26 May 2023  |   06:25am IST

No lessons learned from scrapyard blaze as authorities pass the buck on fire safety at crowded Ponda market

No lessons learned from scrapyard blaze as authorities pass the buck on fire safety at crowded Ponda market

Santosh Naik

PONDA: Prompted to conduct fire safety audits of certain public spaces in Ponda in the aftermath of the recent inferno at a scrapyard at Dhavali, officials of the fire and emergency services have found that the Ponda municipal market, for instance, lacks any emergency equipment in case a blaze breaks out. Its fire hydrants, too, are defunct, firemen said. 

But instead of immediately rectifying the matter, the authorities concerned have chosen to hide behind red tape and conveniently pass the buck. 

Ponda fire station in-charge Sushil Morajkar told Herald that his department had informed the Ponda Municipal Council (PMC) “long ago” about the non-functional fire hydrants at the local market and the urgent need to make them operational. But when PMC chairperson Ritesh Naik was contacted, he said he would inform the public works department (PWD) to tend to the matter. “The new Palika Bazaar project will come up at the Ponda market soon, so the fire hydrants will definitely be in place by then,” Naik said, rather casually. 

It was the glaring absence of fire hydrants at theDhavali scrapyard that led the blaze to go out of control, exposing fire and emergency personnel to immense risk and necessitating the deployment of at least 28 private water tankers to quell the inferno apart from the government's own fire tenders.  

The Ponda market is no less a tinderbox. It was gutted by a major fire 15 years ago, but no lessons seem to have been learned by either the authorities or the vendors. If the authorities have failed to put the requisite emergency firefighting equipment in place, vendors - who have occupied 

every available space - have flouted all safety norms by letting their electrical wires hang dangerously around the complex. 

What’s worse is that the structure’s cement roof tends to leak at several spots during the monsoon, leading vendors to put up plastic sheets to shield themselves and their ware from the rain. But they appear to be oblivious to the tragedy that may befall them should the rainwater trickle down to an exposed livewire in the complex. 

Many local residents believe that in the event of a fire, the crowded marketplace, in all probability, will be destroyed much before it can be saved. “The market is highly prone to fire hazards. Measures to avoid these must be taken by the PMC urgently,” they said. 

“The Ponda fire station is fully equipped with three fire tenders having a total water storage capacity of 80,000 litres. In severe cases, emergency water requirements are met by the Opa Water Works and the tanks at Borim and Kashimat,” deputy director of the Ponda fire station, Rajendra Haldankar, said. “But the hydrants at the Ponda market and the police station have become outdated and must be replaced as they are the first line of defence in case a fire breaks out,” he added.


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