Mumbai city ranked second in fires caused due to short circuit, with 418 deaths over 10 years, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. Delhi recorded the most short circuit-related fatalities (424), while Ahmedabad came third with 260 casualties in 2006-15. Short circuit is a leading cause of fires. Maharashtra, with 1,406 deaths, came third after Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat in that period.
Fire experts said there was an urgent need for a thorough electrical audit by a competent engineer, checking the current capacity, insulation, etc. “The number of casualties will not dip if superficial measures are taken. Changes have to be made in the law,” said former fire chief P D Kargupikar. He added that there was no proper scientific investigation conducted in the aftermath of a blaze. “Most evidence is destroyed while extinguishing the fire,” he said. “Spraying water further washes away the residue. In such circumstances, how does one prove if a short circuit sparked the blaze? Samples are sent to the state forensic science lab but no positive results are obtained,” said Kargupikar.
Fire department officials said despite repeated warnings, individuals and establishments do not invest in good quality electrical equipment. “Lack of maintenance of equipment could lead to fire-related accidents. Overload of electricity is another cause. A key reason is littering of ducts and dumping scrap in buildings, which provides easy ignition to fire. Many buildings don’t even have a proper refuge area or an escape route,” said an official.
Kargupikar said many people get rid off earth-leakage circuit-breakers (ELCB) as they may cause tripping too often. An ELCB is a safety device used in electrical installations to prevent electric shocks. It detects the smallest of stray voltages on the metal enclosures of electrical equipment and interrupts the circuit if dangerous voltage is detected. “Electrical wires have to be selected as per load. It is necessary to ensure they are ISI-certified and not sub-standard. Similarly, with a circuit-breaker, cost should not be a factor during installation,” added Kargupikar.
Chief fire officer P S Rahangdale said most fires here were due to electrical reasons. “Poor maintenance of wiring makes it vulnerable. Wiring gets oxidised due to exposure to weather. Most fatalities are due to inhalation of gas or smoke emitted after burning of wires and due to fear,” he said.
Source – TOI