Death cases because of fire in Maharashtra are higher than the national average for the last five years. Though the number has declined over the years, Maharashtra is still among the top five states in the country for fire-related casualties. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report for 2013, the state reported almost one-sixth (16.5%) of accidental deaths due to unnatural causes — the highest in the country — followed by Madhya Pradesh (9.7%), Tamil Nadu (8.8%), Andhra Pradesh (8%) and Uttar Pradesh (8%). Road accidents, air crash, building collapse, drowning etc. constitute unnatural causes of death.
Accidents due to unnatural causes are preventable and can be reduced by implementing effective safety measures like safety consciousness and effective human interventions. Senior fire officials say that strict implementation of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention & Life Safety Measures Act of 2006 is necessary. However, implementation of the Act becomes difficult when handling fires in old structures and slums.
Recently four senior fire officers lost their lives when they were trapped in the debris of a four-storey building in Kalbadevi, Mumbai, that collapsed six hours after a fire broke out and then spread to an adjoining building. Fire advisor to the state government, M V Deshmukh, said, “Besides strict implementation of the 2006 Act, we need to ensure that the safety mechanisms are in place. However, in case of old structures, such as the Kalbadevi building or wadas in Pune, it may not be feasible to adhere to the rules such as refuge areas, creation of fire passages. These structures pose the greatest challenge.” Fire officials said that short circuits and gas cylinder explosions are the most common causes of fire. A 77-year-old woman was suffocated to death after a fire broke out in a three-storey bungalow in Pune recently. Police say that short circuit was the probable cause.