Limitations of fire fighters a paradox to existence of towering high rises
Limitations of fire fighters a paradox to existence of towering high rises
Praveen Dwivedi and Ashish Ranjan
Limitations of fire fighters a paradox to existence of towering high rises
Photo: Samrat Roy

Limitations of fire fighters a paradox to existence of towering high rises

Recent fire incidents have forced people to think about safety norms in high rises which have been proliferated all across the Delhi-NCR of late. If we go by the norms, the permission to build high rises can exceed 100 metres. But, it is quite paradoxical that fire department only has limitation of going up to the height of 40 metres to douse the fire.

This came as a shock to the people living on the upper floors of the high rises. They are aghast at the short-sightedness of the authorities in devising the norms. Citing safety of life as of paramount importance, they said that this is a real carelessness on the part of the authorities.

In such kind of scenario, it is entirely up to the builder to develop a system which is sufficient to douse the fire above the height of 40 metres. 

There is every reason for residents of high rises to get worried with the current arrangement. They have been complaining about the limitation of fire department to take care of fire happening at the height of more than 40 metres. 

The residents are crestfallen after knowing about this limitation. They spent hard earned money to get a property in these high rises. After all the struggles, they get a property and they become dejected to know that they are not safe even after spending a lot of money.

In the present arrangement, it is only the fire fighting system developed by the builder which can be relied upon in cases of fire. If that system fails at the time of emergency then the residents are left with no other option as fire fighters cannot reach them.

It is also a matter of debate about the effectiveness of the fire fighting system installed by the builder. While there has been a barrage of complaints about the low quality construction by the builder, the effectiveness of the fire fighting system developed by the builder is always in great scrutiny.

Understanding the gravity of the matter, City Spidey spoke to the officials in the fire department of Gautam Budh Nagar to know about the arrangement to take care of fire in high rises.

The officials claimed that managing fire incidents happening above the height of 40 metres depends on the fire safety system equipped in the buildings. Fire fighters of the fire department can reach out only up till 40 meters of height to sprinkle water or fire extinguisher – a chemical lashed CO2 or fire fighting foam. The hydraulic platforms which is being used to douse the fire cannot operate in high rises with height of more than 50-70 metres.

Amir Khan, who manages the fire safety system in a high rise in Greater Noida West said, “In high rises which are above 40 meters of height, fire alarm, water passage, fire fighting equipment must be available either in the balcony or inside the flat.”

“Manual talk point and or talk back is mandatory in each building which are above the height of 50 metres. Talk back is a medium to pass the information as quick as possible to alert security department with an alarm button,” he added.

As per the official data available with the fire department, twin city - Noida and Greater Noida have around 2,000 buildings and nearly 1,000 of it have 20-25 floors. It is impossible for fire fighters to reach on upper floors in case of fire incidents. The high rises in Noida and Greater Noida are of the height of even 250-300 metres.

“Fire happening above the 13-14th floor is very difficult to control. If fire happens inside the flat then the fire fighting system placed inside the flats, balcony and staircases play a vital role in controlling the situation. The role of security management becomes very important in these cases. If the wind is blowing opposite to the fire fighters then it becomes difficult to control the fire,” said Shesh Nath Yadav, a fire fighter in Greater Noida West.

On Tuesday, a major fire broke out at a flat in Ace City society in Greater Noida West. It exposed the arrangements in high rises to combat the fire.

Talking about Ace City fire incident, Arjun Singh, Chief Fire official in BGN fire department said, “Fire seems to have occurred due to short-circuit in AC.” When asked whether AC was on when family was not in the flat, he said, “It is not clear whether AC was on or not but the power supply of the room was on. Before fire department reached the society, the security department had douse the fire.”

Singh further added, “Managing fire in high rises, above the height of 40 metres, is a tough task. Our duty is to reach even if there is a minor fire but in high rises it is tough to control when the fire happens above 12th floor.”