Lanes too narrow, fire tenders forced to stop 400 metres away

Buildings

At least 70 fire fighters and two deputy fire officers in 22 fire tenders rushed to Bhagirath Palace in Chandni Chowk soon after receiving information about fire in two buildings on Thursday evening.

But they stopped near Gurdwara Sis Ganj, 400 metres away from the buildings. That was how far the narrow and congested lanes of Old Delhi allowed them to progress. From here, the firemen dragged water hoses through the choked lanes to reach the burning buildings.

Racing through the evening traffic — the fire started at 5.15 pm — and crawling through narrow lanes, the fire tenders reached the spot 45 minutes after they received the distress call. This, when all the fire stations in the vicinity of Chandni Chowk were alerted and asked to reach Bhagirath Palace at the earliest.

"It was rush hour and the area around Chandni Chowk usually remains packed. The traffic congestion restricted our movement," a Fire official said.

Fire chief A K Sharma said: "The buildings were far from the main road. It was impossible for the fire tenders to reach there. The staircase of the building was too narrow, and it was not possible for firefighters to go inside to douse the flames. The building is old and has cracks, we feared that it might cave in, so firefighters had to be careful."

The firemen also had to watch out for electric cables, which dangled dangerously. "Fire fighting operations become difficult in such congested areas and fighters need to be extra vigilant," Singh said.

The PVC wires, inflammable material and electronic goods stored inside the building fuelled the fire. "The godowns and shops had PVC wires, plastic material and mobile spare parts that increased the magnitude of the fire. The fire was under control by 7 pm," the official said.

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